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John H. Holland (1) (1929–2015)

Autor(a) de Hidden Order: How Adaptation Builds Complexity

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Obras por John H. Holland

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On the basis of reading two books from the series, I’m rather impressed with the Very Short Introductions from Oxford University Press (the other one I have read is Modern China, by my old friend Rana Mitter). I complained after reading one of the earlier accounts of complexity that I was still looking for a good introduction to the topic, and I think I have found it. Mathematics is not really my thing these days, but I found this a very helpful overview of the theoretical side of complex adaptive systems, pulling together a lot of topics that I vaguely knew about. I still need to find something on the more organisational management side of it, but this is a good start.… (mais)
nwhyte | 1 outra crítica | Apr 1, 2023 |
This short booklet mainly provides some tools to look at complex systems. Perhaps it is a good state of affairs (I can not judge that), but it remains very theoretical. What is also striking is that most of the instruments can only be used if they can be displayed in the form of mathematical or schematic models, and that also appears to be applicable to a limited number of complex systems. Holland suggests that in the future a global theory of complex systems is possible, but at the same time he indicates that many questions remain open. For my purpose, - the use of complexity thinking in the study of history -, this book did not offer many relevant things.… (mais)
1 vote
bookomaniac | 1 outra crítica | Jan 10, 2018 |
(posted on my blog: davenichols.net)

I've been interested in complex adaptive systems (cas) and genetic algorithms for many months now, and have a few things that I would love to model and test in some sort of stable framework. What I was missing was the specific nature of building adaptive agents and coordinating their interactions in a meaningful way. John Holland, the 'father of genetic algorithms', wrote this outstanding treatment on cas in 1995 and uses it to describe the work he and his colleagues undertook to model these systems in a framework called ECHO.

The first chapter lays out Holland's ideas about what these systems need in order to be modelled in this way. Namely, there are seven processes and properties which must be present (aggregation, tagging, nonlinearity, flows, diversity, internal models, and building blocks), and with these items, a proper cas model can be built and studied.

Next, Holland explains the nature of agents, each an instantiation of specific i/o, rules, and adaptive behavior. From there, the complex emergent properties and behaviors are explored, including the development of the model known as ECHO. Here, the meat of the book includes Holland's explanation of how to derive complex, emergent behavior from small sets of coded instructions which can be exchanged between agents and mutated. Finally, simulations of the modelling system and further advances toward a proper theory of cas are discussed.

This was the foundational work I was looking for to cement my non-professional understanding of cas modelling and how I might use my programming knowledge to build simple tests of emergent behavior.

I do want to specifically disagree with the previous reviewer(s?) who noted a couple of things. First, while they noted this book is not specifically intended for any professional, such critique misses the point of this book. Holland was working through a difficult modelling project during the mid-1990s, a time when cas was just beginning to be understood in terms of widespread computing resource availability. The work of Holland and his Santa Fe Institute collegues was groundbreaking, and Hidden Order is an excellent place to start for any non-professional interested in understanding how one might go about modelling what is often considered too complicated to model.

Second, Holland's previous work, Adaptation in Natural and Artificial Systems is considered a groudbreaking work in the field, and Holland himself is considered to be one of the most influential thinkers dealing with cas. While I have neither read Adaptation nor worked with cas professionally, this work is not intended for the 'layperson' (one review said it was 'too focused on computer modelling for a layperson'), but for someone, such as myself, who is a non-professional interested in computer modelling, mathematics, and emergent behavior. Not only was the entire book comprehensible, it was a perfect balance of technical discussion and broad explanation. Few books on such a difficult subject pull off this delicate balance, but Holland did so here.

Third, a critique in an earlier review utterly misrepresents Holland's treatment of economics and the Prisoner's Dilemma in this book. PD is used to show how a specific test of emergent behavior can be worked into a computer model of such behavior, it was not used to explore the views of economists on PD. Holland does not imply that only after artificial agents played PD were some results understood, he merely maintains that artificial agents realize many of the same stable strategies realized by human participants.

Holland's treatment of economics is very high-level and is never, ever meant to create a full view of any classical economic model. He offers a general view of some points of classical economics which can be useful in studying cas but never states that his explanation is even a small part of all economic thought and research. I think the reviewer who critiques Holland for 'suggest(ing) that economists are mostly ignorant of this strategy, when in fact it's widely used in economics' misses the point that this book was written a decade and a half before s/he wrote the review of the book. Economic modelling, like all modelling of the last fifteen years, has changed dramatically with the birth of cheap available computing resources.

That said, for other non-professional readers interested in complex adaptive systems, mathematics, computer modelling, and emergent behavior, this is an excellent place to start your study. You do need to be comfortable with logic and some basic modelling behavior, but it is hard to imagine that a reader is interested in the aforementioned subjects without being capable of handling this book. Four stars.
… (mais)
1 vote
IslandDave | 2 outras críticas | Aug 24, 2009 |

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