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Hidden Order: How Adaptation Builds Complexity (Helix Books) Paperback – 13 Aug 1996

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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  • Hidden Order: How Adaptation Builds Complexity (Helix Books)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (13 Aug. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201442302
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201442304
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 691,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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This book goes into some depth of complexity theory. If you're starting out and are familiar with a few things then it is a great resource. However, if you're looking for some light reading into complexity then I would suggest Waldrop's book and not this one. On the other hand, if you're looking for in depth analysis of complexity theory in your field I would also suggest another book. It seems to me that this book fits right in the middle and allows you to dig further into complexity and what its implications might be for your field of study,
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This is a book that has to be read by researchers in AI or other disciplines. It is inspirational and gives a glimpse of what is going on in John Holland's mind. However there are many more ideas that came out the last few years that overtake what is written here. Still it is worth buying and reading.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.8 out of 5 stars 24 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why You Should Get This Book 20 Oct. 2013
By William A. Reed - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I fail to understand some of the more critical reviews of this book, so I wanted to defend it for what it has added to the complexity discussion over the last two decades and add a few points that have not been adequately highlighted in the reviews thus far.

While this book was originally published in 1995, few books on this topic have matched its clarity in explaining the relationship between adaptation and its effects on injecting complexity into systems. There are numerous biological analogies, yet the overall approach addresses the more general application of cas to include human systems at a level accessible to most readers.

Holland's seven basic principles of complex systems remain relevant today and establish important insights about how complexity evolves. These consist of both properties and mechanisms that reveal how interaction affects adaptation and emergence. Holland describes them as:

Aggregation (property)
Tagging (mechanism)
Nonlinearity (property)
Flows (property)
Diversity (property)
Internal Models (mechanism)
Building Blocks (mechanism)

These are introductory in nature and serve as conceptual ideas about the workings of complexity as well as the components for building models and simulation networks. A thorough understanding of these conceptual components is an important starting point for a broader understanding of complexity across a number of domains, including human organizations.

For those interested in modeling complex adaptive systems, Holland guides his readers though the basics of constructing models while identifying some of the key challenges and approaches to representing human behavior in cas models.

Since the book was published, there has been a growing interest in how intervention might be successfully achieved in complex networks. Holland touched on this topic by introducing "lever points" (p 5) and identifying "clusters of effectors" (p. 45) but never explored the possibility of purposely injecting change into networks.

My only mild annoyance with this book is its reliance on overly complex diagrams which are sometimes hard to follow and not particularly complementary to the text.

Overall, this book remains a significantly strong contribution even 18 years after its initial publication. Such enduring value speaks to its role in contemporary complexity scholarship.

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56 of 57 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the Best Intro Book for Everyone 19 Mar. 2004
By yh132 - Published on
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I think this is an excellent book for someone interested in constructing complex adaptive systems. It clearly lays out the technical guidelines that you would need. And of course, it was written by the man who originated genetic algorithms!
However, if you are new to the phenomena of complex adaptive systems (CAS) or agent-based models (ABM), this might not be the best intro book for you. This is particularly true if you are wondering what a genetic algorithm is right now. I think you will get the most out of the book if you are already somewhat familiar with CAS and ABM as Holland does not dwell on illustrative examples. (Yes there are examples, but they are very short compared to other authors on this topic.) Because of this, I think this book will be rather dry and technical and non-intuitive for a real newbie. If you have no idea where to begin, try _Growing Artificial Societies_ by Joshua Epstein and Robert Axtell.
One final comment: for excellent in-depth look at the reiterated Prisoner's Dilemna model with genetic algorithms that Holland briefly discusses, read _The Complexity of Cooperation_ by Robert Axelrod. (Axelrod and Holland mention each other in their books.)
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reading mathematical approaches to scientific thought is like learning a new language to use discussing already complex issues. 28 April 2014
By gare - Published on
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I learned about a new way of looking at mathematical formulae that can be used to see the "Hidden Order" (by John Holland) in complex nonlinear systems. "Wow!" I thought. "So this is the kind of stuff these guys do!" Patterns in Nature that are adaptive repeat themselves at every of level of Complexity. Sometimes, however, no doubt out of enthusiasm for his discoveries and work in this area, Holland strays into a writing voice that made me feel he believes it is his formulae that account for the 'hidden order', the adaptivity of these patterns, or how & why they build toward Complexity rather than that he has found a simple way to describe a remarkable phenomenon that Nature discovered billions of years ago and has been using ever since, even in the face of increasing Complexity! The mathematical ideas Holland has discovered are simply simple ways to reduce the complex variations in an adaptive pattern discovered by Nature long ago into a set of fomulae that are merely descriptive! That certainly has its utility in this Renaissance Time we find ourselves in. We are fortunate to live in an atmosphere where scientists from mathematics, to cosmology, to molecular & genetic biology, to cultural anthropology, to developmental psychiatry & psychology, to civil engineering and computer science (to mention a few!) have begun to appreciate the value of thinking and working together to unravel the mysteries of the birth of the Universe and the evolution of Life here on earth (and very likely on other planets similarly positioned in other solar systems in other galaxies in this and maybe even other Universes!) It's an exciting time for the educated and thoughtful professional of ANY educational background who wants to spend his or her leisure hours (!) trying to wrap his/her mind around this proverbial elephant we blind folks are trying to define, integrate, and--most importantly--understand. I did not experience the 'humor' in Dr. Holland's writing others have spoken of. And, as someone who has only late in life discovered the pleasures of understanding mathematics beyond calculus, I still found I had to work to maintain an optimal level of enthusiasm for Dr. Holland's efforts to reach out to me with as little 'math' as possible. Perhaps that characterizes the problem that exists in the scientific community--trying to make our work and the language we use to describe it as understandable and useful as possible to those in other disciplines. Dr. Holland has clearly drawn together a vast diversity of knowledge from an enormous variety of seemingly unrelated fields of information and thought, and shown us how we can understand the adaptive patterns that underlie their functioning and their increasing Complexity that still exists within their fundamental nature. But I caution the reader to remember--for all its ingenuity--it does not (to my mind) explain the 'why' or even the 'how': It simply--but brilliantly--lays out for us the formulae that can explain the 'whats' that Nature has adaptively discovered. Although I managed to read the entire book & found it informative & helpful to me in my own research, I could only take it in mangeable chunks. I appreciated his efforts to make his ideas accessible & useful to us non-mathematicians; but it was neither a fun nor an easy read for me. In particular, I was disappointed in not being able to grasp what I was looking for--his subtitle, "How Adaptation Leads to Complexity". That seems to me a point of fundamental importance, as it should help us understand how Life--the ultimate in Complexity--seems to go against the very nature of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Maybe my failure to grasp that understading from Holland is because interdisciplinary discourse of this depth of understanding is by its very nature neither fun nor easy. In this regard, I would recommend "Sync" by Strogatz who tackles many of the same ideas with a language much more like English (and even laced with some humor). Together, the two books are a terrific combination. 1 + 1 = 2.5. In closing, if you talk to an artist, he/she will tell you that true creativity may be rewarding, but that does not mean it is either fun or easy: Perhaps that's why we call it work! If you want to play, go buy a mediocre novel! Thanks for your interest in my ideas! Gary C. Martin, M.D., Psychiatrist & Psychoanalyst
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars 31 Jan. 2016
By Joseph Drake - Published on
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Tough read
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 6 Mar. 2015
By Amazon Customer - Published on
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it is very and excellent
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