Monday 03 Jun 2013Emergence, Tipping points and Nudges

Robert Mackay, FRS - University of Warwick

Harrison 103 12:00-13:00

The world around us is complex: it has many interdependent components. Much has been written about "emergence" in complex systems. I propose that what emerges from a complex system is a statistical behaviour. I call the possible statistical behaviours of a complex system, "phases". Some complex systems have a single phase, others have more than one. It is crucial to understand the possible phases and how they depend on parameters and can be affected by controls. "Tipping points" are places in parameter space where one phase may be extinguished and replaced by another. Depending on the new phase, they are to be avoided or desired. Near a tipping point, relatively small "nudges" may push the system over the edge. I will exhibit some toy demonstrations of the phenomena, but the goal is to treat big socio-economic challenges, such as climate, the economy, social unrest, biosystems engineering, and magnetically confined fusion power.

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