Michael C Hogan

Agile Product Development & Innovation Strategy


Attractor Landscapes can help visualize complex systems

I enjoyed reading “An interactive introduction to Attractor Landscapes” by Nicky Case, published May 2018.

Case writes about why complex systems can seem stable, then suddenly collapse all at once and demonstrates how a concept called “attractor landscapes” can be used to understand what’s happening.

Why do many complex systems – cultures, environments, economies – seem stuck (or if good, “stable”) despite lots of effort to change them? And why, when change does come, it seems to cascade (or if bad, “collapse”) all at once?

There’s a tool that can help us understand this: attractor landscapes.

So, the next time you’re wondering why things are stuck a certain way, think about:

    • What are the “attractors” of this system?
    • How “deep” are the valleys? (deeper = harder to escape)
    • How “wide” are the valleys? (wider = bigger range of attraction)
    • Can we not just move the ball, but move the hills? (changing the underlying system)

And if you ever find yourself frustrated by the world, remember: for many systems, for long periods of time, nothing much changes. Then, everything changes.

Read the full article & try the examples at https://ncase.me/attractors/.


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