Chaos Theory or Complexity Theory | TESL Lessons

Chaos Theory

Chaos theory was developed from the 1960s work of the meteorologist, Edward Lorenz. Lorenz discovered that a very small difference (less than one part in one thousand) in the initial conditions led to large changes in the weather predicted by his model over time.

  • A chaos is included in a larger phenomenon, that is, complexity. Chaos is a ‘disorder’ in complexity.
  • Sensitivity to initial conditions is one of the fundamental characteristics of chaos theory.
  • Chaos theory has legitimate applications in the social sciences.
  • Chaos theory is the qualitative study of unstable aperiodic behavior in deterministic nonlinear dynamic systems.
  • The system is dynamic, i.e. it changes over time.
  • The behavior of the system is aperiodic and unstable, that is, it does not repeat itself.
  • Although chaotic behavior is complex, it can have simple causes.
  • Because the system is nonlinear, it is sensitive to initial conditions.
  • Nonlinearity means that the output of the system is not proportional to the input and that the system does not conform to the principles of additivity, i.e. it may involve synergistic (cooperative) reactions in which the whole is not equal to the sum of its parts.
  • Because the system is deterministic, chaotic behavior is not random even though its aperiodicity and unpredictability may take it appear to be so.
  • Because of the instability, aperiodicity, and sensitivity to initial conditions, the behavior of chaotic systems is not predictable even though it is deterministic.
  • Another feature of chaos theory is that of iteration or feedback, in which the output of the system is used as the input in the next calculation.
  • Chaotic behaviors are almost unpredictable.
  • According to Saperstein, ‘predicting unpredictability’ is one of the key elements in determining chaotic behaviours.
  • The greater the range of parameters in which chaos reigns, the greater the instability of the system.
  • Chaotic behaviors may lead to ‘deterrence’.

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