The the complicated, the chaotic, and the complex

| It shouldn’t be surprising that complexity is a difficult concept to describe |

From a philosophical point of view, complexity involves the integration of order and chaos (disorder). It represents a dynamic balance, or a rather complicated dance, between the two. Yet even our descriptions of these concepts are, in many ways, a matter of perspective. What looks like order can often be revealed as chaos, and what looks like chaos can often be resolved into order. Like creativity, which also involves both creative and destructive forces, perhaps the most useful description of complexity is the capacity of a system for innovative change and potential transformation.


The complexity of a physical system or a dynamical process expresses the degree to which components engage in organized structured interactions. High complexity is achieved in systems that exhibit a mixture of order and disorder (randomness and regularity) and that have a high capacity to generate emergent phenomena… Despite the importance and ubiquity of the concept of complexity in modern science and society, no general and widely accepted means of measuring the complexity of a physical object, system, or process currently exists. The lack of any general measure may reflect the nascent stage of our understanding of complex systems, which still lacks a general unified framework that cuts across all natural and social sciences.

Complexity | Scholarpedia

Complex Systems

A system perceived as complex induces a characteristic phenomenology the principal signature of which is the multiplicity of possible outcomes, endowing it with the capacity to choose, to explore and to adapt. This process can be manifested in different ways.

  • The emergence of traits encompassing the system as whole, that can in no way be reduced to the properties of the constituent parts.
  • The intertwining, within the same phenomenon, of large scale regularities and seemingly erratic evolutionary trends.

Complex systems | Scholarpedia