Understanding the parts, the whole, and then some


Complexity, a partnership between The Christian Science Monitor and the Santa Fe Institute, seeks to illuminate the rules governing dynamic systems, from electrons to ecosystems to economies and beyond. An intensely multidisciplinary approach, complexity science seeks out the common processes that pervade seemingly disparate phenomena, always with an eye toward solving humanity's most intractable problems.

This initiative is generously supported by

  • Arizona State University
  • What’s the best way to adapt to climate change?

    Decision makers need to be armed with solid data to take on this fluid and complex problem

  • Why predicting the future is more than just horseplay

    The science of prediction lies at the heart of the modern world, but attempts to forecast even the most straightforward systems often confound scientists, while complex systems sometimes reveal themselves to surprisingly predictable.

  • Why isn’t everything powered by solar yet?

    If you thought free market forces would take over when solar energy became cheaper than coal, think again.

  • How complexity science can help keep the lights on

    Our power grid is the most complex human-technological system ever created, and it's getting more complex every day. Can we develop a theory that explains how it behaves?

  • In a future full of robots, where do humans fit in?

    As robots appear more in daily life, what jobs should be performed by humans and who should be responsible when robots go awry?

  • How data helps cities withstand shock

    As cities grow increasingly interconnected, it’s harder to anticipate the risks they face. How can urban informatics resolve these challenges?

  • How tracking mosquitoes can shape health policies

    Using mathematical models to predict the movements of mosquitoes can help health professionals and policy makers make informed decisions.

  • Thanksgiving 2050: To feed the world we have to stop destroying our soil

    Can complexity science provide new views of our food systems?

  • When an alliance comes with strings attached

    Whether forged between nations, kings, or politicians, alliances typically carry obligations. 

  • The human element of cybersecurity

    If humans aren’t included in the design process of new technologies and we don’t train analysts to work together, why are we still blaming humans for our cybersecurity woes?

Complexity: Worlds hidden in plain sight

Part of a continuing series about complexity science by the Santa Fe Institute and The Christian Science Monitor, generously supported by Arizona State University.

  • What happens when the systems we rely on go haywire?

    Can we learn to predict and control the systems essential to our survival?

  • What can Mother Nature teach us about managing financial systems?

    Like ecosystems, financial markets are complex evolving systems from which unexpected bubbles, crashes, and other surprising behaviors can emerge. Building resilient financial systems may require policymakers to take cues from biology.

  • Water management is a wicked problem, but not an unsolvable one

    How we can begin to think about the tangled web of water supply and demand?

  • How to battle a wicked problem

    Scientists and policymakers must work together, step-by-step, to make a dent in our world’s biggest and most complex challenges.

  • The complex economics of self interest

    In social systems, incentives can work in perverse ways.

  • The source code of political power

    Human interaction is a march toward change and turmoil – not stability.

  • Beehives and voting booths

    There’s order in the chaos of presidential primaries, but is there wisdom?

  • Why people become terrorists

    How violent extremism emerges from complex social systems.

  • Engineered societies

    Can science help orchestrate social outcomes? Should it?

  • Are humans truly unique? How do we know?

    The fourth piece in a year-long series about complexity science by the Santa Fe Institute and The Christian Science Monitor. Read our other entries at

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