Complex problem

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Modelling - relationships - non-linear - contrasted with complicated.

Contrasted with merely complicated problems, complex problems are inherently enormously more difficult to analyse and manage.

Complex systems and problems consist of both:

  • A large number of interacting elements; and
  • Non-linear and unpredictable relationships between the interacting elements, making the system impossible to model reliably using traditional techniques.

For example, climate change is generally considered to be a complex problem (and not merely a complicated one).

Example - Shortcomings of climate change model include linear estimation
"A shortcoming of our model build so far is that some economic impacts are linearly estimated: non-linearities are not adequately captured.
... it’s not possible to estimate non-linear relationships between temperature increases and economic activity for most channels, especially for temperature increases that have not been observed yet.
We use multiplicative factors of 5 and 10 to simulate the increasing severity of outcomes from nonlinearities.
Importantly, the framework does not consider tipping points, events such as the partial disintegration of ice sheets, biosphere collapses or permafrost loss, that pose a threat of abrupt and irreversible climate change...
... other research suggests that if tipping points do happen, there could be an x8 increase in climate change associated economic damages."
Swiss Re Institute - The economics of climate change: no action not an option - April 2021

See also