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# Complexity: A Guided Tour

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What enables individually simple insects like ants to act with such precision and purpose as a group? How do trillions of neurons produce something as extraordinarily complex as consciousness? In this remarkably clear and companionable book, leading complex systems scientist Melanie Mitchell provides an intimate tour of the sciences of complexity, a broad set of efforts
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## Get A Copy

Hardcover, 349 pages

Published
April 1st 2009
by Oxford University Press, USA
(first published March 2nd 2009)

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A very informative and easy-to-read book on complexity and complex systems. Although I learned a lot about the computer science and biological perspectives to complexity and I enjoyed it, but I think the focus on these perspectives is too much and very detailed which leaves very little space for equally interesting perspectives, such as socio-economic approach, or the so called complex adaptive systems approach. Therefore, the book on complex adaptive systems by Miller and Page ...more

Nice introductory book about a number of topics in the emerging field of "complexity".

Complexity is a very broad subject, still under significant theoretical development, that touches upon many scientific fields such as biology, computer sciences, information theory, genetics, network theory etc, so this book occasionally feels a bit disjointed (which is unavoidable considering the nature of the subject) - it must be said however that the author manages to convey, in a clear manner, the main ...more

For those interested in a general and easily readable ...more

For me it was a quick, fun read that put the different topics together quite nicely. And ...more

This book made me flash-back to my Computer Science studies, but in a very good way. It touches on theoretical foundations (Turing Machines, decidability, halting problem, genetic algorithms, fractals, laws of thermodynamics, ...) but the writing is very fluent and approachable.

The author introduced me to the field of Network Theory, a science that builds on graph theory. It leads to interesting questions (and ...more

If you have pondered any of these questions, "Complexity: A Guided Tour" is just the book for you.1

Any computer scientist who graduated in the last ten or so years would have covered some of the topics in Melanie Mitchell's "Complexity: A Guided Tour", and would have probably wished that they had Ms. Mitchell as a lecturer!

Ms. Mitchell is clearly passionate ...more

I'm also impressed about the overall

*niceness*of this book - for ...more

Why is this subject important? Want to know how the brain works? It is a complex network of neurons, and thought is an emergent phenomenon. Want to know ...more

It felt like I was carefully examining a specific puzzle piece and then I’d set it down and examine another piece intently but it never fit with the previous or consecutive pieces. In the end I was still left with a jumbled pile of puzzle pieces. Granted I can see the contours of the individual pieces a little more clearly but I’m ...more

However, there were several points where I felt incredibly bored, specifically from when she began to describe her PhD thesis. I think the bits ...more

The most challenging part was the chapter on the halting problem and Turing machines. If you got through that, the rest of the book won't be too much of a challenge.

I was surprised to find out how many topics I was already familiar with (to varying degrees), but have seen from a slightly different perspective while reading this book.

Definitely recommended !

“One striking instance of Evo-Devo in action is the famous example of the evolution of finches’ beaks. As I described in chapter 5, Darwin observed large variations in beak size and shape among finches native to the Galápagos Islands. Until recently, most evolutionary biologists would have assumed that such variations resulted from a gradual process in which chance mutations of several ...more

The ...more

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I particularly liked the chapter that described her work in some detail- the iterative process of running 'codelets' on statements to extract meaningful relationships between elements and generate analogies.

The ...more

I now have a more in DEPTH vague notion of the topic, but still lack a unifying concept. However, I'm relaxed about that now because it seems there IS no such unifying concept (yet).

Highly recommended book that touches on so many interesting topics. Looking at them through the lens of complexity makes them even more interesting. (Computation, genetics, the immune system, ...more

Dr. Mitchell concludes this excellent volume with admission that complexity is in "early stages," and requires "an adventurous intellectual ...more

May 09, 2010
Richard Williams
added it

first half or so is good, up to her phd thesis explanation. best put that chapter into an appendix and rewrite the rest.

apparently popular science is best written either as a cumulation story or as independent chapters that tie together in the end. the cumulation story would be introduction, then more info, then big point you want to make after most everyone is up to speed. the issue is how to provide background information without loosing people and boring the knowledgeable at the same. what ...more

apparently popular science is best written either as a cumulation story or as independent chapters that tie together in the end. the cumulation story would be introduction, then more info, then big point you want to make after most everyone is up to speed. the issue is how to provide background information without loosing people and boring the knowledgeable at the same. what ...more

The pace is good, but a ...more

That sums it up.

After reading this book it wasn't hard to see and almost feel the potential of this field and it's many real world implications.

Sep 25, 2018
Suneel Madhekar
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One of the most exhaustive, accessible and sincere reviews ever of a scientific discipline! A book full of treasures big and small! Complexity being a complex subject, some parts can become involved or even tedious, but then, that is inevitable when accessibility to the lay-person has to be balanced with technical accuracy. Overall, an amazing book to read.

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Melanie Mitchell is a professor of computer science at Portland State University. She has worked at the Santa Fe Institute and Los Alamos National Laboratory. Her major work has been in the areas of analogical reasoning, complex systems, genetic algorithms and cellular automata, and her publications in those fields are frequently cited.

She received her PhD in 1990 from the University of Michigan ...more

She received her PhD in 1990 from the University of Michigan ...more

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“Whew, this might be getting a bit confusing. I hope you are following me so far. This is the point in every Theory of Computation course at which students either throw up their hands and say "I can't get my mind around this stuff!" or clap their hands and say "I love this stuff!"

Needless to say, I was the second kind of student, even though I shared the confusion of the first.”
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Needless to say, I was the second kind of student, even though I shared the confusion of the first.”

“This statement is not provable.” Think about it for a minute. It’s a strange statement, since it talks about itself—in fact, it asserts that it is not provable. Let’s call this statement “Statement A.” Now, suppose Statement A could indeed be proved. But then it would be false (since it states that it cannot be proved). That would mean a false statement could be proved—arithmetic would be inconsistent. Okay, let’s assume the opposite, that Statement A cannot be proved. That would mean that Statement A is true (because it asserts that it cannot be proved), but then there is a true statement that cannot be proved—arithmetic would be incomplete. Ergo, arithmetic is either inconsistent or incomplete.”
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