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Building the Intentional UniversityMinerva and the Future of Higher Education$
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Stephen M. Kosslyn and Ben Nelson

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262037150

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262037150.001.0001

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Complex Systems and Effective Interaction

Complex Systems and Effective Interaction

(p.109) 8 Complex Systems and Effective Interaction
Building the Intentional University

James Genone

Ian Van Buskirk

The MIT Press

“Complex systems” are systems in which the independent behavior of interacting units gives rise to surprising and difficult-to-predict emergent patterns and properties. Most courses on complex systems focus on the behavior of ants, birds, clouds and other entities and use sophisticated mathematics to analyze these systems. Minerva’s course on complex systems is decidedly different. We start with an overview of characteristics of complex systems, but then quickly begin to apply them to how people and systems interact in the “real world.” Minerva’s Complex Systems course introduces students to the idea that most social systems are complex systems, and students learn to recognize that they are embedded in many different, overlapping complex social systems. Moreover, they learn to apply their understanding of these systems to social interactions—which informs, for example, the way they deal with ethical conflicts, debate, negotiation, and leadership. Approaching social interactions from the perspective of complex systems provides students with tools for understanding, anticipating and influencing outcomes of their interactions.

Keywords:   Complexity, complex systems, effective interaction, social systems, social sciences

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