1. Consistency or change?

The new science of complex networks emphasises the importance of both the static and the dynamic in social systems. Such systems are in a perpetual state of change; however, patterns can and do emerge in such systems, which persist for a...

2. Nature or machine?

Explicitly or implicitly, we often invoke two different metaphors for social systems – natural selection and machines. The study of complex networks offers a conceptual framework that help us to go beyond metaphorical framings. It also...

3. Rigid or Plastic?

Human brains look remarkably similar, which might lead us to believe they are built the same and do not evolve over time. Neuroscientists have increasingly used the new field of complex networks to make sense of the brain, and have come...

4. Luck or skill?

The name “backgammon” derives from two Persian words, “bakht”, which means “luck”, and “gamman”, which means skill. Complex networks, including human systems, are inherently uncertain – the future cannot be predicted...

5. Micro or macro?

This picture shows the “Mandelbrot Set”, a type of “fractal” showing patterns that repeat themselves at all levels of scale. The study of complex networks provide a framework that is scale-free i.e. we can make sense of very small...

Synthesis is a think-tank devoted to using the emerging paradigm of complex networks in the social sciences to tackle social and public policy concerns.

Over the past 20 years or so, social scientists have increasingly made use of advances in the natural sciences to make better sense of social systems. Fields such as network theory, non-linear mathematics and systems theory, which we refer to as the study of complex networks, give us much greater insights that help us make sense of social systems. Armed with a greater understanding, this collection of paradigm-changing toolboxes can help us to make better policy decisions, in the public, private, and “third” sectors.

The need for new thinking is clear. The world has changed radically over the past 30 years or so, with evolving and growing challenges for public policy at all levels - from local communities to the global domain. At the same time, dominant modes of thinking have been left wonting. Human society is now more interconnected than ever before, and this emphasises the need for understanding that accounts for networks which evolve over time. This is at the heart of Synthesis’ approach.

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A New Kind of Economy is Born

Social Decision-Makers Beat the “Homo Economicus” By Dirk Helbing The Internet and Social Media change our way of decision-making. We are no longer the independent decision makers we used to be....

What to make of the complexity paradigm?

by Ben King I would like to thank Greg Fisher for inviting me to write this blog, and also thanks to Rhett Gayle and Torben Kaas for commenting on earlier drafts. My primary interest is identity and cultural...

People Are Not Billiard Balls

The Idea of Semi-Permeable Agents By Greg Fisher A couple of months ago I attended a fascinating workshop organised by my colleagues David Hales, Jeff Johnson and Jerey Pitt, on the subject of ‘agents’ and...

People Are Not Billiard Balls