Please use this syllabus on-line at

Douglas R. White Winter Quarter, 2000 Course Code 60270 revised 1-6-00
12:30 pm to 1:50: Tuesdays in SSL 145 and Thursdays in 155 SST (Computer Lab)
Office Hours: Tues/Th 11:30-12:30 and by Appt SSPA4169 x5893, x8495 (Luisa 3175 SSPA)

As approaches to social science, and the understanding of society and social dynamics, theories of complexity and evolutionary dynamics are explored through readings (many online) and practicum in the computer lab. The key to complexity is internal diversity, which implies heterarchy: heterogeneity driving up-down processes that drive side-side interactions spawning further heterogeneity. Heterarchical systems are ubiquitous in nature and society. They require variably long time scales for the interactions among their diverse elements to unwind towards thermodynamic equilibrium. The unwinding of long-span (e.g., solar) systems fuels the wind-up of shorter-span (e.g., living) systems. Stacks of such complex systems comprise the universe - physical, biological, and social - as we know it. Within those stacks of interest to this course, we focus on the newly emergent sciences of complexity to study the principles of self-organization of social systems. We review foundational principles of complex systems and cutting edge research at the Santa Fe Institute, MIT and elsewhere, from studies of Renaissance Florence to Eastern Europe and contemporary market systems. The instructor is a working group member of the Santa Fe Institute and cofounder of a systems science research group that includes Yates, Iberall and Soodak and numerous social scientists.

In addition to readings on basic principles, students explore several current research approaches in the social sciences and focus on one for a class presentation and term paper. Students with no computer expertise and those with such expertise are both encouraged to participate. Students may work on the presentations and written projects either individually or in groups of up to 3. Guidance is provided for those who wish to do web site presentations.

Dynamical simulation has become a key conceptual tool for the social sciences in understanding how the existing diversity of complex systems has evolved, and may continue to evolve, in the absence of rational planning or central direction. Implications for contemporary political and economic issues (as articulated, e.g., by Postrel) include benefits of decentralized evolutionary processes (and tacit/local versus formal/expert knowledge) resulting from innumerable local interactions among actors versus centralized processes where major actors dominate.

Physicists speak to thermodynamic engine processes driving evolution as the unwinding of complex heterarchical systems (where equilibrium equates to death). Darwinian principles speak to how diversity is generated in biological systems through differential reproduction. Evolutionary game theory speaks to how replicator dynamics lead to diverse trajectories, path dependencies, and stable outcomes other than those predicted by models of rational choice and economic equilibrium. Young (1998: 144) concludes: "the evolutionary approach is a means of reconstructing game theory with minimal requirements about knowledge and rationality" while: "Interpreted more broadly, the theory suggests how complex economic and social structure [norms, cultures, institutions] can emerge from simple, uncoordinated actions of many individuals."


Brian Skyrms. 1996. Evolution of the social contract $18.95+ (see also on-line review by Daniel Probst of Evolutionary Game Theory. by Jrgen Weibull. Cambridge, MA: The M.I.T. Press. 1995.)

John H. Holland, 1995. Hidden Order: how adaptation builds complexity. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley. IN THE BOOKSTORE (Amazon and B/N price: $10.40+)

xeroxed reader

  1. Prologomena and Strategies for Systems Analysis
    • R. Baum, R. Day, L. Goldberg, A. Iberall, A. Moore, H. Soodak, D. White, D. Wilkinson, P. Wohlmuth. 1999. Physical Foundations for a Unified Social Science: Prolegomena to a Theory
    • Eleanora Robbins and Frank Hassler. 1998. Systems analysis to discover the underlying homeokinetic Physics (1-page)
    • Scott Kelso. 1999. Strategies for finding relevant variables and their dynamics (1-page)
    • Brian Arthur. 1999. Complexity and the Economy. Science 284:107-109.
  2. Social Dynamics, Rules of Interaction, Emergence of Culture and Institutions
    Virginia I. Postrel (editor of ReasonOnline 1 2. 1998. The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict over Creativity, Enterprise and Progress. Amazon Price: $10.40
    free download: plentitude: culture by commotion by anthropologist Grant McCracken (A NEW APPROACH to YOUTH SUBCULTURE THEORY)
    • Ch. 2. The Party of Life. Pp. 27-54. (dynamics)
    • Ch. 6. The Bonds of Life. Pp. 111-146. (rules)
  3. F.E.Yates, Ed. 1987. Self-Organizing Systems: The Emergence of Order. New York: Plenum.
    (thermodynamic heterarchy as the driver of complex systems)
    • Ch. 24. Soodak, H., Iberall, A. Thermodynamics and complex systems. Pp. 459-469
    • Ch. 27. Iberall, A., Soodak, H. A physics for complex systems. Pp. 499-520.
  4. David Wilkinson, A. Iberall. 1986. From systems physics to world politics: Invitation to an enterprise. In: Margaret Karns (ed), Persistent Patterns and Emergent Structures in a Waning Century. NY: Praeger.
  5. Stuart A. Kauffman. 1982. The crystallization and selection of dynamical order in the evolution of Metazoan gene replication. Pp. 26-35 in, H. Haken, ed., Evolution of order and chaos in physics, chemistry and biology.
  6. John Horgan. 1995. From complexity to perplexity: Trends in complexity studies. Scientific American 272(6: June):104-11 (addendum: Computing bouts of prisoner's dilemma, pp. 110-113.
  7. Padgett, John F. and Christopher K. Ansell. 1993. Robust Action and the Rise of the Medici, 1400-1434. American Journal of Sociology 98:1259-1319.
  8. Brian Skyrms. 1997. Chaos and the explanatory significance of equilibrium: Strange attractors in evolutionary game dynamics. Pp. 199-222 in Cristina Bicchieri, Richard Jeffrey and Brian Skyrms, eds., The dynamics of norms.
  9. John H. Holland, 1999. Emergence: From chaos to order. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley B/N book price: $12.80+
    • Ch. 12, Closing. Pp.221-248.
  10. Miklos and Zoltan Szilagyi. 2000. A tool for simulated experiments. Simulation 74:4-10

Readings and Discussions "Reader" refers to xeroxed reader for the class, above

Week 1. Fundamental Concepts and Distinctive Features of Complexity and Social Dynamics: Prologomena and Strategies for Systems and Network Analysis.

Reader, Chapter 1. Unified Social Science and the Scaffolding of Hierarchical Levels

Reader, Chapter 1. Robbins & Hassler, Kelso and Arthur - Systems analysis and strategies

Browse: web links

Week 2. Dynamical Social Systems

Reader, Chapter 2. Social Dynamics and Rules of Interaction in the Contemporary Context (Postrel): Heterarchy in Networks

Week 3. Homeokinetics

Thermodynamic Principles for the Social Sciences Douglas R. White

Reader, Chapter 3. from Yates - Thermodynamics and physics of complex systems

Reader, Chapter 4. Wilkenson - invitation

Example: Inflationary Dynamics and Phase Transitions

Browse: linkages longitudinal fieldsites

Week 4. Conceptual Foundations of Evolutionary Game Theory

Skyrms (text). The Social Contract Emergent from Multi-Actor Interactions (see Evolutionary Game Theory by Jason Alexander)

Week 5. Complexity in Network Interactions

Reader, Chapter 5. Kauffman - selection of dynamical order.

Reader, Chapter 6. Horgan - muddles in the models.

Reader, Chapter 7. Padgett - rise of the medici

Week 6. Equilibrium, Attractors, and Multi-agent modeling

Reader, Chapter 8. Skyrms

Reader, Chapter 9. Holland

Reader, Chapter 10. Szilagyi and Szilagyi

Network explorations in Tierra, artificial life

Anthropological Simulations

Week 7. Social Networks

Reader, Chapter 11. Skyrms - dynamic model of network formation

Combining thermodynamic laws with multi-agent models: Velocity of trade phase transitions in economic organization

Week 8. Tues Discussions; Thurs Class Presentations

see links to: social networks

Week 9. Tues Discussions; Thurs Class Presentations

Tom Abel's Simulations by Shenin Mesdaghi

see links to: multi-agent simulations

Week 10. Tues Discussions; Thurs Class Presentations

see links to: evolutionary game theory

recommended and collateral readings

J. Stephen Lansing. 1991. Priests and Programmers: Technologies of Power in the Engineered Landscape of Bali. $17.95 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. HB99.5 .N67 1990

Individual Strategy and Social Structure: An Evolutionary Theory of Institutions, by H. Peyton Young, H. Peyton Young (Brookings Institute), Peyton H. Young Amazon Price: $37.50

Would-Be Worlds: How Simulation Is Changing the Frontiers of Science, by John L. Casti

George B. Dyson, 1997. Chapter 10 (Self-Organizing Systems). Darwin among the machines. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley.

For a synopsis of evolutionary theory in biology: John Maynard Smith and Ors Szathmry. 1999. The Origins of Life.

Also: Grobstein, Clifford. 1974 (2nd edition). The Strategy of Life. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman.

Tentative Conclusions for Better Approaches to Historical Complexity: SFI Report on Hayward Alken

Global Politics, Common Culture and Sustainability: Robert Axelrod Builds Two New Models

For math and computer background to complexity: The Computational Beauty of Nature : Computer Explorations of Fractals, Chaos, Complex Systems, and Adaptation by Gary William Flake. Amazon Price: $45.00

Dynamic Patterns : The Self-Organization of Brain and Behavior (Complex Adaptive Systems) J. A. Scott Kelso. Paperback 1995 Amazon Price: $30

review by Gert Korthof Kauffman At Home in the Universe. "The secret of life is auto-catalysis"

(on-line articles)
Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation.

book reviews from JASSS:

Chaos, Complexity, and Sociology: Myths, Models, and Theories, Edited by Raymond A. Eve, Sara Horsfall and Mary E. Lee. London: Sage Publications. 1997. Reviewed by Alan Dean.

Barriers and Bounds to Rationality: Essays on Economic Complexity and Dynamics in Interactive Systems by Peter S. Albin, Edited by Duncan K. Foley. Princeton, NJ: Princeton thUniversity Press 1998. Reviewed by Roger A. McCain.

Thought Contagion: How Belief Spreads through Society. Aaron Lynch. New York, NY: Basic Books. 1996. Reviewed by Paul Marsden.

Social Science Microsimulation. Edited by Klaus G. Troitzsch, et al. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. 1996. reviewed by Brendan Halpin.

System Effects: Complexity in Political and Social Life. by Robert Jervis. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 1997 reviewed by Scott E. Page.

Boltzmann and Thermodynamics

Iberall, Arthur, A characteristic 500-year process-time in cultural civilization, Comparative Civilization Review, 32: 146-162, Spring, 1995.


Iberall, A. How to run a society, 6 parts, CP2: Commentaries, Physical and Philosophic, Laguna Hills, CA, 1.1-2.2, 1990-1991. Thermodynamics


Complex Systems

David Green's Complex Systems Virtual Library

Yahoo's Complex Systems pages

Complexity: applications some web links

Agent Simulation/artificial life

Chris Langdon

Agent Simulation

Brief Overview of Swarm Agent Simulation

Agent-Based Computational Economics

Adaptive Agent Simulation SANTA FE INSTITUTE

Yahoo's Artificial Life pages

ALife home page

Village simulation

Other Simulation

Croatian Society for Computer Simulation Modelling

Computer Simulation of Societies

Game Theory

Roger A. McCain Strategy and Conflict: An Introductory Sketch of Game Theory

some notes and references

Complexification: Explaining a Paradoxical World Through the Science of Surprise, by John L. Casti

The Logics of Social Structure by Kyriakos M. Kontopolous $52.95+

Computer Simulation: The Art and Science of Digital World Construction, by Paul A. Fishwick

Networks in Action: Communication, Economics and Human Knowledge, by David Batten, John Casti, Roland Thord (Editor)

Cooperation and Conflict in General Evolutionary Processes, by John L. Casti (Editor), Anders Karlqvist (Editor)