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Complexity Explorer

Introduction to Complexity

Santa Fe Institute via Complexity Explorer


In this course you'll learn about the tools used by scientists to understand complex systems. The topics you'll learn about include dynamics, chaos, fractals, information theory, self-organization, agent-based modeling, and networks. You’ll also get a sense of how these topics fit together to help explain how complexity arises and evolves in nature, society, and technology. There are no prerequisites. You don't need a science or math background to take this introductory course; it simply requires an interest in the field and the willingness to participate in a hands-on approach to the subject.


  1. What is Complexity?
  2. Dynamics and Chaos
  3. Fractals
  4. Information, Order, and Randomness
  5. Genetic Algorithms
  6. Cellular Automata
  7. Models of Biological Self-Organization
  8. Models of Cooperation in Social Systems
  9. Networks
  10. Scaling in Biology and Society
  11. Wrapping Up; Virtual Field Trip

Taught by

Melanie Mitchell


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4.9 rating, based on 143 reviews

Start your review of Introduction to Complexity

  • Neelesh Marik

    Neelesh Marik completed this course.

    This course moved the needle on my understanding of this fascinating subject space, and introduced some rigour into what was earlier mostly just doe-eyed interest: fractals, the information-energy relationship, complex adaptive systems, universal computation,...
  • Davide Madrisan completed this course, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    An absolutely amazing course that introduces, in the simplest possible way, lots of aspects of the complex system theory and applications. The videos with interviews to mathematicians, physicists, and economists are very interesting too and will let you, I'm sure, a need of a deeper understanding on the subjects.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    It is a nice course but I think it is highly overrated. The thing is, I think it is quite shallow and while it is a great introduction to the field of complex systems for amateurs and new comers, it also downgrades the field and is presented in a rather...
  • Anonymous
    Muchas gracias por este curso que me motiva a seguir trabajando en áreas que en algún momento no sabía para que se podían usar, que el aprendizaje no termina y que falta muchísimo por entender y que siempre debe alguna persona que aporte algo en beneficio de otros aunque el egoísmo pudiera parecer una característica (el bien siempre es más). Gracias a las personas, Doctores y especialistas que comparten su conocimiento, en cursos, en entrevistas, etc. es muy interesante cada tema, y el interés siempre aumenta.
  • Idikula Mathew

    Idikula Mathew completed this course.

    I had taken the course last year and it is a very comprehensive introduction to the interesting world of complexity. The best part of the course is its variety of elements and approach taken by Melanie to simplify complex topics. Above all as a full time working person, the freedom to manage time at your own pace has been the super plus on this MOOC for me.
    Its a highly recommended introduction to the topic of complex systems if complexity, nature and its patterns, behavior etc excites you.
  • Bernardo Furtado

    Bernardo Furtado completed this course.

    The course is a gem. It works as a general overview of complexity covering from dynamic systems to genetic algorithms to basic conceptualization. Everything is intuitive and fun to learn. It does not go deep into subjects as it is not its original proposal, but it provides a good panorama so that students can move further on their own. You might enjoy it if you are a physicist, biologist or social scientist. Level of math is basic and the end of the course fieldtrip (yes!) is delicious.
  • Deepak Alse

    Deepak Alse completed this course.

    The course provides a well structured introduction to the inherently broad field of complexity. This is not a 'sit and watch' type of course - If you want to acquire the basic skills for analyzing complexity, you should engage with the content, the quizzes and the programs. It will change your perspective towards the world and you'll be surprised at how many 'miracles' you'll be able to explain after you've completed the course.
  • Anonymous
    Excelente introducción a un área no muy conocida y ni muy difundida.

    Gracias por hacer de la ciencia una actividad creativa, multidisciplinaria, ... que define muy bien la necesidad de trabajo en equipo, motivado por el simple hecho de aportar algo de entendimiento a nuestra existencia y ha este universo tan basto.
  • Anonymous
    This course was excellent! The lectures were clear, the quizzes helpful and interesting, and the differentiated homework problems really great to meet all different backgrounds and levels of time availability. Bravo!
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    At 76 years of age; BSc, Phd Geology, BMath, and lots of work related engineering, economics and business courses, this is undoubtedly one of the best and most interesting courses I have taken. I look forward to following this up.
  • Profile image for Ramírez Vera Brian Israel
    Ramírez Vera Brian Israel
    Great course, I learned very much, great contents, great platform and great experience.

    I´m very grateful with Complexity Explorer and Santa Fe Institute, to post this curse totally free.
  • Anonymous
    It is amazing, I learned a lot in a very fun and interesting way. As a physicist, the complex systems look like a generalization of the physical modeling of the universe.
  • Anonymous
    Just awesome. Best MOOC of all time. Great contents, clear explanations, fine tuned's a dream come true.
  • Matias Agelvis completed this course.

    An introduction to many topics very important for the science of this century, perfect for every one that want to know more about the world of complex systems , even people with no mathematical background
  • Andreas Mayer

    Andreas Mayer completed this course.

    This course provides a nice introduction into many exciting topics in complex systems science. Ideas from nonlinear dynamics, information theory and network science are reviewed in an engaging manner by the course instructor Melanie Mitchell in a series...
  • Anonymous
    I have been always curious about everything inside us and outside us and how systems in general operate and functions but traditional model were far from reality . So , I always wanted to learn something about complexity , randomness and unpredictability of systems and nature which this course aptly described and explained in such an interesting and fun manner . I am particularly interested in complexity economics and behavioral sciences . I really thank santa fe institute for providing such valuable education .
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Since I have recently begun my studies in computational neuroscience (which deals with a lot of topics studied in Complex Systems), the course was really helpful for me to get an introduction into the field of complex science. Thank you so much Santa Fe! :)
  • Profile image for Gerold Firl
    Gerold Firl

    Gerold Firl completed this course.

    Intro to complexity delivers just what it promises: an overview of Complexity Science, covering all the branches of this vital and fascinating new discipline. It walks a fine line on mathematical rigor to be accessible to those without a strong math background...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    TL;DR: Excellent course. Highly recommended!! This course has been one of the most interesting, inspiring and memorable courses I have ever taken online. Many of the (almost 50) MOOCs I have taken before would sometimes lack in depth and be too practical...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I am a little confused. I am reading some authors of the supplementary materials and I dont understand why they are celebreting new discoveries. Let me explain it, If you evaluate the knowledge about complexity you can see that they arent enough predictive...

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