Introduction

Complexity theory developed out of the general systems theory, and it concerns complex adaptive systems that are usually open systems, in the sense of thermodynamics. They are able to receive energy from outside themselves. Using terms that will be explained in a moment, this means that their internal energy gradients can increase. So too can their complexity. In its turn, this means that their output is greater than their input. Their whole is greater than the sum of their parts. They are non-linear systems.

These complex adaptive systems include all living systems, the stock market, economic systems, the Internet, food production and distribution systems, evolution, horse racing, and so on. There are many aspects of complexity theory that need not be described here, partly because they are too intricate, but mainly because they are not immediately relevant. About a dozen excellent, nontechnical books on complexity have been published during recent years. For anyone wishing to study it further than the brief summary presented here, The Web of Life (Capra, 1996) is recommended.

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