Complex adaptive systems: Exploring the known, the unknown and the unknowable

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The study of complex adaptive systems, from cells to societies, is a study of the interplay among processes operating at diverse scales of space, time and organizational complexity. The key to such a study is an understanding of the interrelationships between microscopic processes and macroscopic patterns, and the evolutionary forces that shape systems. In particular, for ecosystems and socioeconomic systems, much interest is focused on broad scale features such as diversity and resiliency, while evolution operates most powerfully at the level of individual agents. Understanding the evolution and development of complex adaptive systems thus involves understanding how cooperation, coalitions and networks of interaction emerge from individual behaviors and feed back to influence those behaviors. In this paper, some of the mathematical challenges are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-19
Number of pages17
JournalBulletin of the American Mathematical Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics


  • Complex adaptive systems
  • Ecosystems
  • Natural selection
  • Self-organization


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