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Diversity and Complexity
Scott E. Page

Paperback | 2010 | $24.95 | £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691137674
304 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | 10 line illus.
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400835140 |
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This book provides an introduction to the role of diversity in complex adaptive systems. A complex system--such as an economy or a tropical ecosystem--consists of interacting adaptive entities that produce dynamic patterns and structures. Diversity plays a different role in a complex system than it does in an equilibrium system, where it often merely produces variation around the mean for performance measures. In complex adaptive systems, diversity makes fundamental contributions to system performance.

Scott Page gives a concise primer on how diversity happens, how it is maintained, and how it affects complex systems. He explains how diversity underpins system level robustness, allowing for multiple responses to external shocks and internal adaptations; how it provides the seeds for large events by creating outliers that fuel tipping points; and how it drives novelty and innovation. Page looks at the different kinds of diversity--variations within and across types, and distinct community compositions and interaction structures--and covers the evolution of diversity within complex systems and the factors that determine the amount of maintained diversity within a system.

  • Provides a concise and accessible introduction
  • Shows how diversity underpins robustness and fuels tipping points
  • Covers all types of diversity
  • The essential primer on diversity in complex adaptive systems


"Scott Page effectively illustrates the multiplicity of results from diverse aspects of complex systems. While all too many social scientists have tried to focus on making analysis simple, Page points out that this overlooks the great variety of relevant material in our social worlds. I am looking forward to having my students read it in my graduate seminar and encourage others to do so as well."--Elinor Ostrom, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics

"At once clear and precise, Page not only makes a persuasive case for the advantages of diversity in biological, ecological, and social systems alike, but also provides the reader with the analytical tools necessary to engage real-world debates in a rational, even quantitative manner. The result is a valuable primer on a difficult and important subject."--Duncan J. Watts, author of Small Worlds: The Dynamics of Networks between Order and Randomness

"Scott Page has performed a remarkable work of synthesis. The concepts of diversity and its implications for performance and growth are common to many fields, especially biology and economics. Page has drawn these illustrations together and shown the common elements and how each field illuminates others."--Kenneth J. Arrow, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics

"Page engagingly seduces readers into rather deep ideas in complex systems, including sophisticated mathematical formulas, by using a relaxed style with lots of examples. Yet the treatment is rigorous."--Simon A. Levin, Princeton University

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Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments ix
Prelude: The Meaning of Diversity 1
Chapter 1: On Diversity and Complexity 16
Chapter 2: Measuring Diversity 54
Chapter 3: The Creation and Evolution of Diversity 79
Chapter 4: Constraints on Diversity 127
Chapter 5: Variation in Complex Systems 148
Chapter 6: Diversity's Inescapable Benefits I: Averaging 167
Chapter 7: Diversity's Inescapable Benefits II: Diminishing Returns to Types 183
Chapter 8: Diversity's Impact in Complex Systems 196
Chapter 9: Parting Thoughts 249
Bibliography 257
Notes 271
Index 281

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