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Macquarie University

Analysing Complexity

Macquarie University via Coursera


The first course of the specialization ANALYZING COMPLEXITY will teach you what unifying patterns lie at the core of all complex problems. It advances your knowledge of your own field by teaching you to look at it in new ways.

ANALYZING COMPLEXITY is constructed in the following way: Week I. "What is Complexity?" - What is at the core of all complex problems Week II. "Complex Physical Systems" - What complex problems all have in common in the inanimate world Week III. "Complex Adaptive Systems" - What complex problems all have in common in nature Week IV. "Complex Cultural Systems" - What complex problems all have in common in human society Week V. "Complexity, Fragility, and Breakdown" - Why complex problems arise Week VI. "Complexity in the Anthropocene" - What complex problems face us today


  • What is complexity?
    • Welcome to the first course of our specialisation on solving complex problems! In this module, we will be looking at complexity in the broadest sense and how it relates to us. From there we will zoom in to different aspects of this universal and all-encompassing concept.
  • Complex Physical Systems
    • In this module, we'll look at how complexity operates in the inanimate universe, the corresponding links between physics, chemistry, and geology and how they reflect the ground rules of all forms of complexity.
  • Complex Adaptive Systems
    • In this module, we'll explore the ratcheting up of complexity inside adaptive systems, and the impact adaptation has on the rules of the game for constantly evolving complex systems.
  • Complex Cultural Systems
    • In this module, we'll look at an even more powerful adaptive system - culture. We'll survey what is at the root of this new form of complexity and how this impacts our thinking about how human society, the most complex system of which we are aware, functions and evolves.
  • Complexity, Fragility, and Breakdown
    • In this module, we'll look at the decline of complexity. So far we've focused on how complex systems sustain or increase themselves. In order to truly understand every angle of all complex systems - physical, biological, and cultural - we need to understand how and when they collapse, and what all those breakdowns have in common.
  • Complexity in the Anthropocene
    • Now that we've explored the different kinds of complex systems and have some idea of the risks and dangers involved, this module will look at how these concerns impact us in the present Anthropocene epoch, where humanity faces many threats of decline and collapse amid the most complex system that we know of in the visible universe.

Taught by

David Baker, David Christian and Shawn Ross


4.5 rating at Coursera based on 138 ratings

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