Teaching > Preservation Planning >

Organized Complexity

"Complexity Made Difficult." Source: Kelo University.

In some fields, particularly where problems of a similar kind arise in the physical sciences, the difficulties can be overcome by using, instead of specific information about the individual elements, data about the relative frequency, or the probability, of the occurrence of the various distinctive properties of the elements.  But this is true only where we have to deal with what has been called by Dr. Warren Weaver (formerly of the Rockefeller Foundation), with a distinction which ought to be much more widely understood, “phenomena of unorganized complexity,” in contrast to those “phenomena of organized complexity” with which we have to deal in the social sciences. (2) Organized complexity here means that the character of the structures showing it depends not only on the properties of the individual elements of which they are composed, and the relative frequency with which they occur, but also on the manner in which the individual elements are connected with each other.  In the explanation of the working of such structures we can for this reason not replace the information about the individual elements by statistical information, but require full information about each element if from our theory we are to derive specific predictions about individual events.  Without such specific information about the individual elements we shall be confined to what on another occasion I have called mere pattern predictions-predictions of some of the general attributes of the structures that will form themselves, but not containing specific statements about the individual elements of which the structures will be made up. (3)

2  Warren Weaver, “A Quarter Century in the Natural Sciences”, The Rockefeller Foundation Annual Report 1958, chapter I, “Science and Complexity”.

3  See my essay “The Theory of Complex Phenomena” in The Critical Approach to Science and Philosophy. Essays in Honor of K. R. Popper, ed. M. Bunge, New York 1964, and reprinted (with additions) in my Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, London and Chicago 1967.

von Hayek, F.A. The Pretence of Knowledge, Nobel Memorial Lecture, December 11, 1974, American Economic Review. Vol, 79, No. 6, December 1989, pp. 3-7. In Chartrand, H.H. The Competitiveness of Nations in a Global Knowledge-Based Economy, PhD Thesis, University of Saskatchewan, April 2002