For a system to exhibit complexity means that the systems' behaviors cannot be easily inferred from its properties. Any modeling approach that ignores such difficulties or characterizes them as noise will necessarily produce models that are neither accurate nor useful. As yet no fully general theory of complex systems has emerged for addressing these problems, so researchers must solve them in domain-specific contexts. Researchers in complex systems address these problems by viewing the chief task of modeling to be capturing, rather than reducing, the complexity of their respective systems of interest.

While no generally accepted exact definition of complexity exists yet, there are many archetypal examples of complexity. Systems can be complex if, for instance, they have chaotic behavior (behavior that exhibits extreme sensitivity to initial conditions, among other properties), or if they have emergent properties (properties that are not apparent from their components in isolation but which result from the relationships and dependencies they form when placed together in a system), or if they are computationally intractable to model (if they depend on a number of parameters that grows too rapidly with respect to the size of the system).

« Systems that exhibit complexity »

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