Investigating complexity to transform society

Many people share the perception that the only hope for this world lies in a radical change in the economic system, but are unsure about which alternative(s) will really deliver. Others think that none will. Such doubts and fears are not entirely unfounded: societies are terribly complex, and well-intentioned attempts to transform them can have unintended consequences. This danger will never disappear completely, but we can reduce it dramatically if we address it seriously. To this end, we now have a tool that 19th century utopian thinkers could not imagine: complexity science. Complexity scientists seek a common ground for all forms of complexity, from the amazing shapes of clouds to the intricate workings of a living cell, an ecosystem or a society. This poses them in a privileged position to imagine yet other viable complex systems, which do not flourish only because they have never been sowed, including new forms of socioeconomic organization. Depending on who uses it, complexity science can make problems even worse, or can be one of the candles that will allow us to glimpse the ways toward sustainability and social justice. Very few people are aware of this potential, even among complexity scientists themselves, but it is time to change this.

In the documents below you will find some steps in this direction, under the label of ecological econophysics. Since this is largely a beginning, they contain more questions and hypotheses than solid results, but I hope that they will be inspiring and motivate an increasing number of people to pursue this research (and the hypotheses must not be completely wrong, considering that I partly foresaw the 2008 crisis, as reminded in p. 22 in the first document). One of the documents is a long paper (to be read as a book) published in a peer-reviewed journal: Ecological econophysics for degrowth. The other is a much shorter account that will be presented in an academic conference: Introduction to ecological econophysics for degrowth.

Salvador Pueyo

P.S.: Happily, this approach is attracting increasing attention. I was invited to present ecological econophysics in the 2015 conference of the German Physics Society, and previously in the 2014 meeting of the Catalan Network for the Study of Complex Systems. I also presented it in the open space of the 2014 Degrowth conference, and it is scheduled for presentation in the special session Developing functional ecological macro-models at the 2015 conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics. And I welcome the recent contribution to this debate by M. Berg, B. Hartley and O. Richters.

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