Exploring Complexity: Volume 1
Aha… That is Interesting! John H Holland, 85 Years Young
Edited by Jan W Vasbinder (2014)
World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte Ltd

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John Holland is one of the few scientists, who all by themselves and by their pursuits, helped change the course of science and the wealth of human knowledge. There is hardly a field of science or problems, that is not affected by John’s work on complexity and in particular, complex adaptive systems. On the occasion of his 85th birthday, many of his friends wrote about John, about facets of this remarkable man that only people close to him can know and tell.This book collects those stories highlighting aspects of the creation of complexity science that will most likely not be found in the books on John’s works.

The stories and anecdotes about his quests, his collaborators, and his friends, show his incredible mind, his boyish curiosity and explorative energy, his philosophy of life, his enormous hospitality and natural inclination to make friends.

Exploring Complexity: Volume 2
Cultural Patterns and Neurocognitive Circuits: East–West Connections
Edited by Jan W Vasbinder and Balázs Gulyás (2016)
World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte Ltd
Our age is characterized by global access to information, places and cultures: we can gain more and more knowledge about “the others”: other people and their cultures by “indirect knowledge” — learning about them via the global information net assisted by electronic and other high-tech communication channels, as well as by “direct knowledge”: personally visiting various parts of the world and meeting local people in their own natural and social environments.East and West, two major worlds of aspirations, cultures, world-views, theoretical and practical approaches to life and death, have come closer by personal experiences of both Westerners and Easterners. But do we really understand the similarities and differences between the cultural-cognitive-behavioural-emotional patterns of the East and the West, with special regard to their neurobiological underpinnings in the human brain?

The contents of this book focus on cultural patterns and cognitive patterns in the East and West, with special regard to those patterns which are determined by our natural-genetic endownments in contrast to those patterns which are influenced by our cultural (“East–West”) influences, and within this context a unique flavour is given to the “good life” aspects of adapting to this global community.

Exploring Complexity: Volume 3
43 Visions for Complexity
Edited by Stefan Thurner (2017)
World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte Ltd
Coping with the complexities of the social world in the 21st century requires deeper quantitative and predictive understanding. Forty-three internationally acclaimed scientists and thinkers share their vision for complexity science in the next decade in this invaluable book. Topics cover how complexity and big data science could help society to tackle the great challenges ahead, and how the newly established Complexity Science Hub Vienna might be a facilitator on this path.
Exploring Complexity: Volume 4
Cultural Patterns and Neurocognitive Circuits II: East–West Connections
Edited by Balázs Gulyás and Jan W Vasbinder (2018)
World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte Ltd

The contents of this book continues the theme as in the previous volume on cultural patterns and cognitive patterns in the East and West, with special regard to those patterns which are determined by our natural-genetic endownments in contrast to those patterns which are influenced by our cultural (“East-West”) influences, and within this context a unique flavour is given to the “good life” aspects of adapting to this global community.

The chapters written by leading neuroscientists, give an overarching picture from the elementary organisational principles of the human brain through the basic perceptual and motor functions of the brain to the highest levels of cognition, including aesthetical or moral judgments, with an eye on what can be called “good life” in both Eastern and Western cultures. A unique compilation of state-of-the-art overviews of how the human brain is organised and functions in order to achieve high level of social, moral or aesthetic thoughts across cultures.

Exploring Complexity: Volume 5
Selected Papers of John H Holland: A Pioneer in Complexity Science
Edited by Jan Wouter Vasbinder and Helena Hong Gao (2018)
World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte Ltd
With his work on computer logic, John H. Holland became one of the most important founders of modern computer science. People who knew John Holland were all amazed and deeply influenced by his incredibly imaginative and creative mind. He produced many more ideas than he could follow up in his life time. This selection of his papers in the field of computer logic entails many of his explored and unexplored ideas. Revisiting the explored ideas and exploring the unexplored ones should be of great interest to scientists of all ages, and of great value to the current research not only in computer science but in many other fields as well.

Exploring Complexity: Volume 6
Disrupted Balance – Society at Risk
Edited by Jan Wouter Vasbinder (2018)
World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte Ltd

Human society is no stranger to catastrophe, but the challenges the world faces today — a ballooning population, intense global connectivity and the unquenchable thirst of human consumption — have synergised to make disruptions more frequent, intense and far reaching.

Despite the complexity of these problems, the response should not be to give up and surrender to these forces, the crash can be avoided. Humanity does possess the scientific, technological and social knowledge to not just survive, but also to emerge from the tumult by being more resilient and sustainable societies. The most urgent question, therefore, is how can we act on this knowledge.

This book brings together 12 esteemed authors from diverse fields ranging from geology to governance, who have come together to collectively issue a unifying clarion call to action.

Exploring Complexity: Volume 7
Grand Challenges for Science in the 21st Century
Edited by Jan Wouter Vasbinder, Balázs Gulyás, & Jonathan Y. H. Sim (2018)
World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte Ltd

This interesting book is a compilation of the lectures and discussions held during a four-day event — Grand Challenges for Science in the 21st Century — organized by Para Limes at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

The elite group of speakers included Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner who called on all scientists to adopt a truth-seeking approach and not be afraid of challenging assumptions. The other panellists were Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and past President of the Royal Society, the much-cited Terrence Sejnowski from the renowned Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the well-known keynote speaker in economics and complexity sciences Brian Arthur, the former President of the European Research Council Helga Nowotny and the Director of the Parmenides Center for the Conceptual Foundations of Science Eors Szathmary.

The lively sessions were moderated by the Danish writer Tor Norretranders. The panel tackled topics from evolution and the origin of the universe to modern technologies and artificial intelligence. The challenges presented during the event are bound to get the reader thinking about what may lie ahead in our future.

In the Spirit of Science
Lectures by Sydney Brenner on DNA, Worms and Brains
Sydney Brenner and Terrence Sejnowski (2018)
World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte Ltd

In October 2017, Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner (Physiology or Medicine, 2002) gave four lectures on the history of Molecular Biology, its impact on Neuroscience and the great scientific questions that lie ahead.

Sydney Brenner has been at the centre of the development of molecular biology, being a key player in shaping the Laboratory for Molecular Biology in Cambridge into a cradle of research, where pioneering and seminal discoveries in the field for over half a century have resulted in more than half a dozen Nobel Prizes.

His memory is a treasure trove of the history of the field with innumerable anecdotes on other leading scientists in the past 60 years. These lectures trace the history and recount some of those anecdotes. His interlocutor Terry Sejnowski is the Francis Crick professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the Laboratory Head of its Computational Neurobiology Laboratory. Terry and Sydney are long-term collaborators and they share many stories and memories.

The recorded lectures are the basis for this book. It aims to preserve the history of molecular biology and to also raise scientific questions that have resulted from the work of Sydney, Terry and others. It should be read by everybody who is interested in the generation, history and impact of great ideas as recounted by one of the legends of 20th century science.

Sydney Brenner’s 10-on-10
The Chronicles of Evolution
Edited by Shuzhen Sim and Benjamin Seet (2018)
Wildtype Books

Humans now wield a greater influence on the planet than any other species in history, and human-developed technologies like genetic engineering and artificial intelligence stand poised to overtake biological evolution. Just how did we arrive at this unique moment in human history, 14 billion years after the birth of the universe? Sydney Brenner’s 10-on-10: The Chronicles of Evolution brings together 24 prominent scientists and thinkers to trace the story of evolution through ten logarithmic scales of time. Through expert insights, this unique volume considers how humans found our place in the cosmos, and imagines what lies ahead.


Jan W. Vasbinder, “What if there were no Universities” PsyCh Journal 6 (2017): 316-325

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To a large extent, the pursuit of science takes place in universities. In this essay, I ask the following questions. Supposing there were no universities, and that all the knowledge mankind has ever collected and generated is somehow accessible, would we invent universities to make this knowledge available to address the problems humanity faces? What should those universities perform, and what role would science play in such universities? To look for answers to those questions, I consider the nature of the problems dealt with by science, the knowledge needed to address those problems, the gap between the two, the need for interdisciplinarity and the need to edu cate the leaders of the future, and finally, the boundaries of scientific knowledge

Jan Vasbinder et al. January 2013. Perspectives on a Hyperconnected World: Insights from the Science of Complexity. Paper written for the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Complex Systems.

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This accelerating interconnectedness has in many ways made life better. But it has also brought greater complexity to world affairs. Many of the grand challenges that confront humanity—problems as diverse as climate change, the stability of markets, the availability of energy and resources, poverty and conflict—often seem to entail impenetrable webs of cause and effect.But these problems are not necessarily impenetrable. Powerful new tools have given scientists a better understanding of complexity. Instead of looking at a system in isolation, complexity scientists step back and look at how the many parts interact to form a coherent whole. Rather than looking at a particular species of fish, for example, they look at how fish interact with other species in its ecosystem. Rather than looking at a financial instrument, they look at how the instrument interacts in the larger scheme of global markets. Rather than think about poverty, they might look at how income relates to conflict, politics and the availability of water. Whatever the object of study happens to be, complexity scientists assemble data, search for patterns and regularities, and build models to understand the dynamics and organization of the system. They step back from the parts and look at the whole.

Jan W. Vasbinder. 23 August 2014. The Complexity Lens. Paper presented at the Technology Symposium, European Forum Alpbach, Austria.

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For 300+ years, science has looked at the world through a lens that reduced it to a linear playground. On that playground, we have decomposed complex problems into smaller problems that cuold be solved by linear methods. It now has become increasingly clear that reductionist science cannot solve the complex problems, beacuse if taken apart, complex systems lose precisely the character that makes them complex. Thus science, or rather we as humanity, needs another lens to look at the world: the Complexity Lens. That lens filters out details and amplifies connections and dynamic interactions. One great mission for complexity science is to craft such a lens, and with that lens understand the world and thus make better decisions. Two examples on which such a complexity lens might be focused on might be supply chain management, and governance in an East-West context.

Jan W. Vasbinder, Jonathan Y. H. Sim, Jan Staman. 24 June 2014. Exploring the East-West Barrier. Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

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Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem about East and West begins with the words, “Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” Even today, as we live in a globalised world where rapid developments have led the East and West to be highly interconnected and dependent on one another, there is a sense that East and West do not understanding each other. There have been rising tensions between China and the West, with each side expanding their military in response to the other’s expansion. There is a risk that if this carries on – or rather, if there continues to be no development of understanding and respect for each other’s cultures, backgrounds, and motives – a simple misunderstanding may be all we need to spark an armed conflict between the two. We believe that underlying such tensions between China and the West is a barrier that prevents both sides from accurately reading each other’s motives and intentions. We hope to do something to reduce the tension between China and the West.