John Holland

Paper #: 93-04-023

Many of our most troubling long-range problems--trade balances, substainability, AIDS, genetic defects, mental health, computer viruses--center on certain systems of extraordinary complexity. The systems that host these problems--economies, ecologies, immune systems, embryos, nervous systems, computer networks--appear to be as diverse as the problems. Despite appearances, however, the systems do share significant characteristics, so much so that we group them under a single classification at the Santa Fe Institute, calling them “complex adaptive systems (cas).” This is more than terminology. It signals our intuition that there are general principles that govern all “cas” behavior, principles that point to ways of solving the attendant problems. Much of our work is aimed at turning this intuition into fact.