Can complexity theory explain Egypt’s crisis?

February 4, 2011 | Source: New Scientist Science in Society

Scientists who study complex systems have been warning that ever-tighter coupling among the world’s finance, energy and food systems would result in waves of political instability. Some say that is now happening in the Middle East. Better models of the complex relationships in these systems could allow us to predict the next domino to fall.

The stresses of decadesĀ of dictatorship might have turned the entire Middle East into a “self-organised critical system” says Yaneer Bar-Yam, head of the New England Complex Systems Institute in Cambridge. The build-up of stresses makes such systems vulnerable to cascades of change triggered by relatively small disruptions.