It is easy to get caught up in the excitement surrounding the study of complexity and how our new learning might be applied to the problems we face today. We often feel like pioneers in a new land, making new discoveries. For those involved in charting such a course, it is easy to lose historical perspective and the path already taken by others. It is to these earlier pioneers that the Classical Papers Section is dedicated. Such a side trip to the archives can quickly bring the reader a dose of reality, that some “new” ideas are really only “rediscovered.” Similarly, our view of the future can gain some perspective when reading about earlier predictions of the future, what we now call the present.

Reaching back almost 60 years,

The optimistic attitude of the power of science is also reflected in “Science and Complexity.” In the first part of the article, Weaver offers a historical perspective ofproblems addressed by science, a classification that separates simple, few-variable problems from the “disorganized complexity” of numerous-variable problems suitable for probability analysis. The problems in the middle are “organized complexity” with a moderate number of variables and interrelationships that cannot be fully captured in probability statistics nor sufficiently reduced to a simple formula.

The second part of the article addresses how the study of organized complexity might be approached. The answer is through harnessing the power of computers and cross-discipline collaboration. Weaver predicts:

When reading this, there is a bit of déjà vu in what we sometimes hear today of our study of complexity. So too in the statement that “science has, to date, succeeded in solving a bewildering number of relatively easy problems, whereas the hard problems, and the ones which perhaps promise most for man’s future, lie ahead” (Weaver, 1948). In the end the reader is left with conflicting feelings of surprise that we are not further along in our understanding of complexity given Weaver’s ideas nearly 60 years ago, while also still being optimistic in our success for the same reasons Weaver was optimistic.

The original article can be downloaded from