Homer-Dixon on complexity science

Stack of folded newspapers

Thomas Homer-Dixon, director of the Cascade Institute at Royal Roads, spoke to Getting Smart Podcast host Tom Vander Ark about why and how the world is getting more complex, the role of complexity scientists and the focus of the Cascade Institute.

Here’s some of what he had to say:

“Generally, if you are going to point to one attribute of complexity, it’s that small things can make a big difference, and sometimes really big changes in the system don’t make much difference at all. So there’s a disproportionality between the size of the cause and the size of the effect, whereas with simple systems, small cause usually causes a small effect and a big cause causes a big effect. But in complex systems, the relationships between causes and effect become much more disproportionate.

“And the result is that prediction is really hard. And sometimes complex systems can flip from one state to another, from one equilibrium to another, without much warning, as we can see from when a financial crash or a pandemic hits the world.”

Watch the discussion at the Getting Smart Podcast.