Chapter

Complexity Perspectives on Language, Communication and Society

Part of the series Understanding Complex Systems pp 3-14

Facing Complexity: Prediction vs. Adaptation

  • Carlos GershensonAffiliated withComputer Science Department, Instituto de Investigaciones en Matemáticas Aplicadas y en Sistemas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México Email author 

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Abstract

One of the presuppositions of science since the times of Galileo, Newton, Laplace, and Descartes has been the predictability of the world. This idea has strongly influenced scientific and technological models. However, in recent decades, chaos and complexity have shown that not every phenomenon is predictable, even if it is deterministic. If a problem space is predictable, in theory we can find a solution via optimization. Nevertheless, if a problem space is not predictable, or it changes too fast, very probably optimization will offer obsolete solutions. This occurs often when the immediate solution affects the problem itself. An alternative is found in adaptation. An adaptive system will be able to find by itself new solutions for unforeseen situations.