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Uncertainty and Surprise in Complex Systems: Questions on Working with the Unexpected

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Complexity science has been a source of new insight in physical and social systems and has demonstrated that unpredictability and surprise are fundamental aspects of the world around us. This book is the outcome of a discussion meeting of leading scholars and critical thinkers with expertise in complex systems sciences and leaders from a variety of organizations, sponsored by the Prigogine Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the Plexus Institute, to explore strategies for understanding uncertainty and surprise. Besides contributions to the conference, it includes a key digest by the editors as well as a commentary by the late nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine, "Surprises in half of a century". The book is intended for researchers and scientists in complexity science, as well as for a broad interdisciplinary audience of both practitioners and scholars. It will well serve those interested in the research issues and in the application of complexity science to physical and social systems.

The papers in this volume were first presented at the conference, “Uncertainty and Surprise: Questions on Working with the Unexpected and Unknowable,” held April 10-12, 2003 at the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. Sponsors of the conference were The Plexus Institute and The Ilya Prigogine Center for Studies in Statistical Mechanics and Complex Systems. The Hana Foundation provided generous financial support that made the conference possible. Generous financial support was received from the IC2 Institute, the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship and, the McCombs School of Business all located at The University of Texas at Austin. Additional financial support was provided by the IBM Center for Advanced Studies.

This conference would never have been held without the leadership and support of Curt Lindberg, President and Henri Lipmanowicz, Chair of the Board of the Plexus Institute. They were both involved right from the initial conceptual efforts to the opening of the conference through the preparation of these proceedings. Bob Shapiro, a member of the Board of the Plexus Institute, was an early contributor to the planning for the conference. The Plexus Institute is a leader in the promotion of a complexity science framework for examining a multitude of issues. The leadership of the Institute saw this conference as a way to bring ideas from complexity science to bear on our understanding of uncertainty and surprise. Curt Lindberg, in particular, kept his interest high, was key in contacting and making arrangements with speakers, and was a source of encouragement for all associated with the conference.

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