Complexity in Social Worlds
This topic forms a chapter in the book Complex Adaptive Systems. Here is the opening paragraph, on page 27:
We see complicated social worlds all around us. The being said, is there something more to this complication? In traditional social science, the usual proposition is that by reducing complicated systems to the their constituent parts, and fully understanding each part, we will then be able to understand the word. While this sounds obvious, is this really correct?
Is it the case that understanding the parts of the world will give us insight into the whole? If the parts of the world are really independent from each other, then even when we aggregate them with should be able to predict and understand such “complicated” systems.
As the parts begin to connect with one another and interact more, however, the scientific underpinnings of the approach begin to fail, and we move from the realm of complication to complexity, and reduction no longer gives us insight into construction.
He then goes on to consider if social behavior is complex – a point I already take for granted. He asks these questions:
- How much agent sophistication is required?
- How much heterogeneity?
- What about social niche construction?
- The role of control?
These are all huge questions, and I am not satisfied that Complexity Theory is capable of answering them. It overlooks too many basic issues, such as greed and destructiveness – which hardly require any theory at all.
And of course, people’s refusal to consider any theories whatsoever.