Article

Journal of Statistical Physics

, Volume 158, Issue 3, pp 735-781

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Saving Human Lives: What Complexity Science and Information Systems can Contribute

  • Dirk HelbingAffiliated withETH Zurich, Swiss Federal Institute of TechnologyRisk Center, ETH Zurich, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Email author 
  • , Dirk BrockmannAffiliated withRobert Koch-InstituteInstitute for Theoretical Biology, Humboldt-University
  • , Thomas ChadefauxAffiliated withETH Zurich, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
  • , Karsten DonnayAffiliated withETH Zurich, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
  • , Ulf BlankeAffiliated withWearable Computing Laboratory, ETH Zurich, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
  • , Olivia Woolley-MezaAffiliated withETH Zurich, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
  • , Mehdi MoussaidAffiliated withCenter for Adaptive Rationality (ARC), Max Planck Institute for Human Development
  • , Anders JohanssonAffiliated withCentre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College LondonSystems Centre, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Bristol
  • , Jens KrauseAffiliated withDepartment of Biology and Ecology of Fishes, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries
    • , Sebastian SchutteAffiliated withETH Zurich, Swiss Federal Institute of TechnologyCenter for Comparative and International Studies, ETH Zurich, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
    • , Matjaž PercAffiliated withETH Zurich, Swiss Federal Institute of TechnologyFaculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, University of Maribor

Abstract

We discuss models and data of crowd disasters, crime, terrorism, war and disease spreading to show that conventional recipes, such as deterrence strategies, are often not effective and sufficient to contain them. Many common approaches do not provide a good picture of the actual system behavior, because they neglect feedback loops, instabilities and cascade effects. The complex and often counter-intuitive behavior of social systems and their macro-level collective dynamics can be better understood by means of complexity science. We highlight that a suitable system design and management can help to stop undesirable cascade effects and to enable favorable kinds of self-organization in the system. In such a way, complexity science can help to save human lives.

Keywords

Crowd disasters Crime Terrorism War Disease spreading Complexity science