Tuesday, 29 October 2013 09:17

Innovation in Complex Adaptive Systems

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Innovation in Complex Adaptive Systems tallkev@flickr

My group, which consist of myself, Petter Törnberg and Anton Törnberg, works to develop new ways of understanding the evolution of societal systems. We work on several levels – from specific case studies up to basic concept, model and method development. The basis for our work is the realization that innovation is usefully describable on the highly abstract level of “innovation in complex adaptive systems”. In other words there are features of systems under adaptive transformation that appear to be common to just about any instance: animal culture, early hominin culture, modern culture and biological organic evolution.

Darwinism (or more generally “population thinking”) has since long been the basis for such attempts and it is an element also of what we are doing. However we think that Darwinism needs to be scaffolded: evolution – or innovation, whichever one prefers – is not reducible to the dynamics of populations and it does not just emerge out of a microlevel dynamics where the full explanation really resides. The reason for this is really simple and quite concrete: there is no clear scale separation in these systems and so the generated higher levels of organization will have dynamics on timescales that overlap with those on lower levels.

Societal and biological systems have been described in ways that are compatible with our way of thinking for quite some time; not least lately in evolutionary developmental approaches to biology. But these efforts are scattered across very different disciplines and we think we can get a tremendous head start by combining such accounts. So we are working to produce a synthetic theory of innovation with an eye to two different, yet interestingly connected, areas: human evolution and innovation in modern societies. We are also working to develop a community interested in understanding “innovation in complex adaptive systems” more in general.

Read 5905 times Last modified on Tuesday, 05 November 2013 10:41
Claes Andersson

My group is concerned with developing new ways of understanding societal systems from a complexity perspective. In this work we develop new models and theory and also work quite a bit on method development. At the moment we have two main application areas. The first is the evolution of cultures through the palaeolithic. Here we are interested in contributing to building a better understanding of how we came to be how we came to be (socially and biologically) – which is essential for putting our historical and modern societies in perspective. The second is an interest in what has been characterized as “sustainability transitions”: how we can bring about transitions in society – technological, economic, social and so on – to practices that do not undermine their own existence by their very operation. But this is a highly challenging task. Compared with “naturally occurring” transitions, sustainability transitions are economically and politically “uphill reactions”. Their benefits are diffuse, hard to quantify and reside in the future. Often their benefits are even negatively defined: they consist in averting some disaster that we have not and should not produce an example of. Their costs on the other hand are focal, immediate and highly quantifiable. The third is urban morphology and dynamics from a perspective of complex systems and spatial interaction via models of accessibility.

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