• Complexity

  • The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos
  • By: M. Mitchel Waldrop
  • Narrated by: Mikael Naramore
  • Length: 17 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, World
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (185 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

“If you liked Chaos, you’ll love Complexity. Waldrop creates the most exciting intellectual adventure story of the year” (The Washington Post).

In a rarified world of scientific research, a revolution has been brewing. Its activists are not anarchists, but rather Nobel Laureates in physics and economics and pony-tailed graduates, mathematicians, and computer scientists from all over the world. They have formed an iconoclastic think-tank and their radical idea is to create a new science: complexity. They want to know how a primordial soup of simple molecules managed to turn itself into the first living cell--and what the origin of life some four billion years ago can tell us about the process of technological innovation today.

This book is their story--the story of how they have tried to forge what they like to call the science of the 21st century.

“Lucidly shows physicists, biologists, computer scientists and economists swapping metaphors and reveling in the sense that epochal discoveries are just around the corner...[Waldrop] has a special talent for relaying the exhilaration of moments of intellectual insight.” (The New York Times Book Review)

“Where I enjoyed the book was when it dove into the actual question of complexity, talking about complex systems in economics, biology, genetics, computer modeling, and so on. Snippets of rare beauty here and there almost took your breath away.” (Medium)

“[Waldrop] provides a good grounding of what may indeed be the first flowering of a new science.” (Publishers Weekly)

Cover design by Mauricio Díaz

©1995 M. Mitchell Waldrop (P)2020 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about Complexity

Average Customer Ratings
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Amazing

As someone with degrees in math physics and computer science and an ex research fellow at the Santa Fe Institute I absolutely loved this book! The story, the way it was told everything about it was perfect! You never get to really hear a story about someone taking a long time to finish their PhD and still being an amazing scientist or the struggles for grants or how humane these people we idolize are! They are brilliant but books such as this one bring their genius closer to earth. This book inspired me in so many ways. What a joy!

15 people found this helpful

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You won't learn anything you didn't know

I purchased this title hoping to learn something about Complexity theory, particularly how it works. Instead, I got a 'just-so' story filled with anecdotes, gossip, and more hand-waving than one can, well, hand-wave at. As to Complexity itself, it's just a matter of, "We old hacks constructed a model and tweaked it, and the model verified we were right all along. The universe works by Complexity theory. The End." After 13 hours of this, I just gave up. If you are a fan and want to be entertained, the narrator does a good job and it's a decently constructed story. You just won't learn anything about the subject from this title you didn't already know, whether a little or a lot. If you want to learn about Complexity theory, I'd suggest looking somewhere else.

14 people found this helpful

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  • JH
  • 12-15-20

The Dull Lives of People with Interesting Ideas

My impression is that the author wishes terribly that he were James Gleick, but entirely fails to strike the engaging balance of dramatic narrative and conceptual exploration that Gleick usually achieves. This book is not about complexity, it is about the people who developed the field. Perhaps you're looking for a sometimes charming, but mostly sleepy account of the lives of the many academics who have contributed to this rather interesting field. If so, please disregard my review. If you are looking for material that engages with complexity itself, look elsewhere.

6 people found this helpful

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Wonderful.

One of the most enjoyable science books i've read lately. I would recommend it to anyone.

5 people found this helpful

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History of complexity

A great story of the start of the field of complexity. Gives a lot of other names and books to follow up on. Puts the AI of todat into perspective and let's you see where it comes from.

4 people found this helpful

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Not about the science of complexity

I gave up on this after about 4 hours. The book is not about the emerging science of complexity but rather the people who developed the field and the history of their efforts. It is, in a sense, personality journalism, which was not of interest to me.

The narrator was not to my taste. His diction and clarity of speech were excellent but I thought his style was somewhat over the top with a gee whiz feel to it. I'm sure others will react differently.

3 people found this helpful

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One of the worst books in a while

Not sure what I might be missing, but going through nearly half of the book was painful and totally uninformative.

2 people found this helpful

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Great history (needs an update)

Very captivating history of complexity theory, but it stops at the year ~1990. It could use an epilogue to recap the last 30 years.

1 person found this helpful

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good for understanding the roots of fhe subject

mostly found myself injoing listening to this book , as it is fille with many stories and anicdotes that walk you threw the evolution of the subject.
the narraitor does a good job at keeping you ingaged in the story.

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Very good

If you are interested in the story, it's very well told. Well written and well narrated.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Tim
  • 07-21-20

A simply told story of complexity

I found this book an interesting read. I had heard a few of the characters give seminars, and have a reasonable understanding of complexity theory. But I did not know the history of the field. I really enjoyed learning about it. The story is very well told, and engaging. I enjoyed this book. It would have perhaps been improved with a slightly deeper exploration of some of the concepts and consequences of complexity science, in places. However, it is possible I am being too critical, as some of these insights may have been achieved after the book was published.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Bart Pander
  • 02-04-21

Very much a biography of the Santa Fe institute.

it was fine to listen to but it was much more a biography of a group of interesting figures then to popular science book I expected.

6 people found this helpful

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  • steve
  • 02-12-21

well read. functional problem playing this. . ..

well read. functional problem playing this. . Drops out 6 hours from the end. .subject matter could be better.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Plamen
  • 02-03-21

Absolutely wonderful!

A great overview of the history, origins and main players in the fascinating new science of complex adaptive systems.

2 people found this helpful

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  • MJ
  • 11-25-20

Hooray for Santa Fe

Complexity at the edge of chaos, just about sums it up. Fascinating hearing about all the different people and ideas converging on the same insights.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-14-20

interesting book

interesting insight into the early days of a field. would also suggest the book chaos if you enjoy this

2 people found this helpful

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  • Gavin
  • 01-21-22

Interesting but vague

A lot of interesting ideas glossed over for a more biographical story. Was very interesting in parts, but felt I had to listen to too much back story at times making the book feel disjointed.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Emils Petracenoks
  • 03-13-22

An inside view on a scientific breakthrough

The book is truly a pearl, it inspires research, it inspires perpetuation of intellectual pursuit.

Reading chapter 9 was scary. It's so actual for 2022 that it feels like this chapter was written not earlier than in the past decade, but it's 30 years old. It's embarrassing that this stuff is yet to be taught in schools. It's embarrassing that this stuff is falling on deaf ears of the politicians.

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  • Hybris
  • 02-27-22

Biography rather than a book about complexity

This is a biography of the Santa Fe institute rather than a book about the science of complexity. If such a biography is what you are looking for, then this is probably it. If not; stay clear of this one.

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  • Rebecca
  • 12-24-21

Great insight into the origins of complexity

detailed however a great high level overview of principles in sfi. Also a clear view on the potential future directions of the teams

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-14-20

The first few hours was interesting the rest was really boring

There are some interesting points raised in the beginning of the book. The rest of the book is basically just fillers... really boring

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  • Simon Bowler
  • 12-06-20

OK but 28 y since publication

The account of scientists discovering complexity in the 1980s is interesting but what has happened since 1982?