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Understanding Complexity

(The Great Courses)

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  700 ratings  ·  87 reviews
Recent years have seen the introduction of concepts from the new and exciting field of complexity science that have captivated the attention of economists, sociologists, engineers, businesspeople, and many others. These include tipping points, the sociological term used to describe moments when unique or rare phenomena become more commonplace; the wisdom of crowds, the arg ...more
155 pages
Published 2009 by The Great Courses
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Otto Lehto
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An outstanding series of lectures. One of the best courses I've ever taken, both in delivery and contents. I might be biased, since I was already extremely interested in complexity. However, it is hard not to be impressed by the structure of the lectures and the enthusiasm of the speaker. Highly recommended. ...more
Joe Kraus
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I picked this one up because Scott Page is an old college friend, and hearing his voice – not so much as a reader as a lecturer – was part of the deep pleasure of listening to it. I remember him back in his student government days with the same mix of seriousness and good humor – putting energy into the work but never taking himself too seriously.

So, biased as I am, I declare his presence, his voice, worth the price of admission.

But there’s much more here as well. I guess I could have provided a
Sri Shivananda
This is organized as a set of lectures and is a great introduction to complexity science. This is the first time I listened to a lecture set and I like it as an additional learning tool. I was looking to put structure to my thinking on complexity as a concept and this set of lectures helped me immensely.
Tarmo Tali
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Not to mention interesting topic, this is probably one of the most amazing learning experiences I ever had.
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was FASCINATING!! Highly recommended, but with one big caveat.

The caveat is that this book isn't actually about complexity but rather about complex systems. That might seem like a minor distinction but on the heels of Big History: The Big Bang, Life On Earth, And The Rise Of Humanity I've been wrestling ever since with his contention that the arc of existence is toward ever greater complexity. A comment from someone in the past year or two noting that computer science is really the stu
Isabelle reads a book a day because she has no friends
If you asked me to explain this to you I would probably just cry but it was really fun to learn about
B.A. Wilson
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
So. This was complicated. I'm not sure if I feel smarter or stupider now. Perhaps a bit of both, so I think that means these lectures were effective. ...more
B.J. Richardson
May 02, 2022 rated it really liked it
Scott Page brings a well organized passion to this introduction to complex systems. He begins by describing the difference between simple, complicated, and complex systems. Throughout he will use the analogy of Mount Fiji, a mountain range, and a fluctuating mountain range. In a simple system, there is a simple solution and it will take you right to the top. In a complicated system, the solution you are pursuing might take you to a localized peak, but it will not necessarily get you to the highe ...more
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-read-again
One of my favourite Great Courses. There's lots in here that's both practical and explanatory. I think tipping points are crucial to understand in many different areas of life, and diversity isn't just about ethics, it's logistically best practice in a complex system.

Second time through, still good. I realised that I first listened to this in December 2019 and he talks a bit about global pandemics. 😬
Vivek Kotecha
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a nice, brief introduction to the subject. Explains many concepts like self organised criticality, agent based modeling, phase transitions, tipping points, emergence etc.. in complex systems. Highly recommend
Kent Winward
Jan 19, 2020 rated it liked it
The Great Courses really probably ought to be re-titled, "Pretty Decent 101 Courses." ...more
Jan Hrubý
Aug 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: complexity, systems
Really interesting introduction into complex systems and the way of thinking.
Mapping Mount Fuji into real life, agent-based models, crashes, the importance of slack in certain systems, optimization, and a ton of other useful information.
The author/narrator is great as well. I've already looked up his books for further reading.
Kristian Norling
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very good primer!
Aug 31, 2022 rated it really liked it
Good format to getting to know the subject.
Joseph L.
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was ok
Watch a detailed review along with my favorite ideas and takeaways at:
Feb 17, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: courses
I took this course on Audible, and I loved it, it should be something that is mandatory for High School, and most definitely college. The understanding of complex systems is something that, in my opinion, is increasingly necessary for society.
Jun 26, 2022 rated it really liked it
What is the book about?
Understanding Complexity introduces to the framework of complex adaptive systems and its core terms and concepts. Which properties makes complex systems complex? Which properties, or rather, which degrees of property manifestation separate them from other types of systems? How can the landscape analogy be helpful to understand complex systems? — and other questions are answered by Scott Page on a low-resolution level not to overwhelm the beginner.

Can I recommend it? Whom i
Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This course touches on many different topics to try to explain and illustrate complexity (such as systems, networks, economics, evolution, and games). It's good in providing a framework around complexity. When the rules are known and the outcome is predictable, it's simple (like a game of tic-tac-toe). When the rules are not known and the outcome is unpredictable, it's chaos. Complexity is in the range between those two extremes. The subject of complexity isn't mature enough that it could be exp ...more
Kunal Sen
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A rare and distinctive example of taking something complex and making it completely understandable, without oversimplification. Moreover, it is a topic every curious person should know about. Many of the interesting phenomenon we encounter in real life, be it, consciousness, biology, climate change, or financial markets, can only be understood by seeing them as complex systems. I would strongly recommend this series of lectures to all my friends.
Lis Carey
This is a set of interesting, entertaining, informative lectures on the science of complexity.

Much of the world we live in consists of complex systems, inherently changing, always in motion, or, as the author says, "dancing." They can't be controlled, but if we take the time to understand them, we can influence them. Properly applied, this could help prevent financial crashes, or prevent or contain epidemic. It can help design buildings better designed to enable people to evacuate safely in the
Øivind Schøyen
May 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this course as an audiobook. It had a nice level to follow for an introductory level and some gave nice insights.
May 19, 2022 rated it it was amazing
When the landscape dances, we must adapt.
Complexity explained easily. I just wished I had read it before. Plenty of down to earth examples that make a complicated topic digestible. I also loved the summaries at the end of each chapter. So many takeaways from this book. Here’s a few from my notes on the “harnessing complexity” chapter:

- diversity is beneficial to innovation and robustness. But if agents are too diverse we need to balance diversity or we will have selection driving exploitation at
C.A. Gray
May 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
This Great Course reminded me of "Freakonomics" or a Malcolm Gladwell book rendered more rigorous: it discusses the unlikely connections that create complex systems in which there is no true top-down organization, but rather a series of subtle interconnections. Early lectures allude to Chaos Theory to explain these connections, and particularly the butterfly flapping its wings that can later lead to a hurricane on the other side of the world. Cultures, economies, climate, politics, marketing, an ...more
Anthony Thompson
Dec 06, 2021 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this lecture. Mr. Page kept referring to Tipping Points in networks as an allusion to Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Points, so I decided to listen to that next. As a duo, they were great to listen to back to back, because they both illuminated specific structures within networks and hierarchies that have a disproportionate effect on the rest of the network.

Where Page differs from Gladwell's Tipping Points is in his explanation of the idea of emergence in complex structures. He explains t
Mohammed alkindy
Oct 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
i enjoyed this new topic about complexity, the author managed to clearly highlight the subject for beginners. the four elements of complexity which include diversity, interdependence, interconnection, and if i understood it correctly the learning are the main contributors to this complexity phenomena. i liked the story of the forgotten camera bag at the airport that created the chaos and disruption of the airports in the east cost of America and how a small event can create such disruption as it ...more
Carl Rannaberg
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very nice introduction to complexity theory with approachable examples and explanations. It discusses rugged and dancing landscapes, exploration vs exploitation dilemma, game theory, evolution, networks, algorithms, global vs local optimums, robust and fragile systems, emergence etc.

One of the takeaways was that in order to solve complex problems as a leader you need diversity:
* Rotate peoples jobs and offices
* Create parallel work teams
* Bring in outsiders
* Hire people with diverse training
Juan Rivera
Jun 19, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: lecturas-2021
When I started playing chess I remember doing my brilliant strategies and they were immediately countered by my opponent.

And it is that the game of chess is a complex game, like many things in life.

Scott E. Page's "Understanding Complexity" is a little muddle on the subject of complexity.

Most of the courses of "The great courses" are excellent, I really did not like this one but at least it made me understand a little that the flat decision-making methods that I learned in university are tota
Jun 20, 2021 rated it it was ok
You have to be interested in Economics and Business to understand the complexity of such a study. It gives the historical accounts of people like Ralph Waldo Emerson, speaks on producers of amazing novelty, with such an imagination to where we would not have such things today--like electricity (lights in our homes), complex systems of plumbing (toilets and showers for example, and water running through our washers), technology, and the goal is to push the understanding of these complex systems ( ...more
Alice Domenis
The concepts are easy to understand, but the examples are presented with too many details, which can be confusing. Moreover, Prof. Page speaks too fast for an audio course without visuals and often stumbles in his words, resulting in his speech slurring and becoming unclear. I found the pdf copy of the course GuideBook online, which is clear and concise. I suggest you read that first and take the video course online if you haven't listened to the audiobook yet, as listening to it alone would lim ...more
Valentyn Danylchuk
Oct 03, 2022 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Explains complex systems as a product of autonomous agents that affect each other's outcomes. Highlights the difference between a complex system, chaos, and a static rough landscape of solutions. Notes the valuable aspects of complex systems (resilience, creativity) and the dangerous ones (large events, unpredictability). Makes some suggestions on how to harness complex systems, or at least recognize them and evaluate risks better. Explains a little about probability distributions and games theo ...more
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