A complex system:
I used to have a kind of nagging guilt trip.  I’d look at my data and say, “It’s obviously following a simple rule or two.  What’s the equation?  Didn’t all the great insights depend on equations?”  Now there is comfort of a sort. (Christof Adami Boldly Going Beyond Mathematics SCIENCE vol. 338 no. 6113 December 14, 2012 page 1421 reviewing John H. Holland Signals and Boundaries – Building Blocks for Complex Adaptive Systems MIT Press, Cambridge 2012)  The argument is that it’s all right to have a computer simulation of what you’re doing and no equation.  Complex systems are more readily demonstrated that way.

All right, then I guess we’re into a complex system here.  It sounds very esoteric.  I mean likely to be understood only by a select few.  I guess generally that means something occult.  But it isn’t my ambition.  I think this can be made clear to most people.  And it certainly isn’t occult. 

I still think it would be nifty to have an algebraic expression of the model.  Then it would be possible to assign specific names to parameters and predict how they things are going to change when the parameters change.  Instead, I’ve always just bulldozed my way through it, trying hundreds of combinations to get something that approximated real data.  I imagine there is a way to get the computer to do the search, but I never ask a computer to do anything for me I can do myself. 

So here we are talking about complex systems.  If you want to intimidate your friends, brush up on the December 21 summary and then whisper, “It’s a complex system, out of reach of normal math.”

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