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  Lorenz's early insights marked the beginning of a new field of study that

  impacted not just the field of mathematics but virtually every branch of

  science - biological, physical and social. IN meteorology, it led to the

  conclusion that [IT] may be fundamentally impossible to predict

  weather beyond two or three weeks with a reasonable degree of

  accuracySome scientists have since asserted that the 20th century will

  be remembered for three scientific revolutions - relativity, quantum 

  mechanics and chaos.

  "By showing that certain deterministic systems have formal

   predictability limits, Ed put the last nail in the coffin of the

   Cartesian universe and fomented what some have called the

   third scientific revolution of the 20th century, following on

   the heels of relativity and quantum physics,"

  ... said Kerry Emanuel professor of atmospheric science at MIT.

  "He was also a perfect gentleman, and through his intelligence,

   integrity and humility set a very high standard for his and

   succeeding generations."




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Comment by Michael Grove on August 9, 2018 at 16:02

          Many complex systems can be better understood through the

          lens of Chaos Theory. Henri Poincaré, a mathematician, laid

          the groundwork for Chaos Theory.[i] He was the first to point

          out that many deterministic systems display a “sensitive

          dependence on initial conditions.” Poincaré described this

          concept in the following way: “It may happen that small

          differences in the initial conditions produce very great

          ones in the final phenomena. A small error in the former

          will produce an enormous error in the latter. Prediction

          becomes impossible.” For example, Poincaré pointed out

          that the apparent lack of order seen in many astronomical

          systems was actually not random or chaotic. Instead,

          astronomers were just not seeing the small changes in initial

          conditions that were leading to humongous differences in

          the final phenomena that were being observed.

          Later, in the 1900s, Edward Lorenz officially coined the

         term Chaos Theory. Lorenz studied Chaos Theory in the

          context of weather systems. When making weather

          predictions, he noticed that his calculations were

          significantly impacted by the extent to which he rounded

          his numbers. The end result of the calculation was

          significantly different when he used a number rounded to

          three digits as compared to a number rounded to six digits.

          His observations on Chaos Theory in weather systems led to

          his famous talk, which he entitled, “Predictability: Does the

          Flap of a Butterflys Wings in Brazil set off a Tornado in

          Texas?" In reference to this talk, Chaos Theory has also

          been described as the “butterfly effect.


          Application of Chaos Theory

          Chaos Theory has a lot to teach people about decision

          making in complex environments. The mathematical

          concepts used to understand physical systems are now

          being applied to social environments such as politics,

          economics, business, and other social sciences.[ii]


          Although applying Chaos Theory to business settings IS

          still in its infancy, social scientists describe the following

          applications as useful when making business decisions.[iii]

              Originators: Henri Poincaré (1854-1912), Edward Lorenz (1917-2008)

           Keywords: order, chaos, complex systems, determinism, butterfly effect,

            sensitive dependence on initial conditions, nonlinear dynamics, chaos




              [i] Oestreicher, C. (2007). A history of chaos theory.

                  Dialogues in Clinical Neurosciene, 9(3), 279-289.


              [ii] Richards, D. (1990). Is strategic decision making chaotic?

                   Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 35(3), 219-232.

             [iii] Chaos theory and strategy: Theory, application, and managerial implications

                   Strategic Management Journal, 15, 167-178.

             Please cite this article as: esthermsmth, "Chaos Theory,"

             in Learning Theories, September 23, 2017,



  • Chaos theory suggests that spending a lot of time trying to predict the future of complex, non-linear systems may be better spent elsewhere. Instead of trying to predict long-term future outcomes, businesses should consider and plan for multiple possible outcomes.
  • Chaos theory reminds business owners that small changes in business practice can lead to huge changes in future outcomes based on the concept of sensitive dependence on initial conditions. Some business managers underestimate the possibility for large unexpected changes, and should reconsider their mindset on this matter.
  • Chaos theory assumes that there is order behind seemingly random events. Even though businesses may not be helped by making long-term future predictions, they can make short-term forecasts to help with business decisions.
  • Because of the complexity and unpredictability inherent in complex systems, businesses need clear guidelines for employees to follow. However, since sudden and drastic changes are bound to occur, business owners should be ready to adapt these guidelines as necessary.


Comment by Michael Grove on January 9, 2019 at 16:33

This is an inspirational book, a call for action, and a basis for hope. We have entered a window of opportunity that the author brilliantly illustrates using the concepts of chaos theory. Dr. Ervin Laszlo is a unique scientist who founded systems philosophy and general evolution theory. But he is also the founder and president of the Club of Budapest, an informal association of highly creative people who use their insight to enhance awareness of global problems and human opportunities.

The book starts with a Chinese proverb that warns, “If we do not change direction, we are likely to end up exactly where we are headed.” The author then summarizes the problems the world is now facing and their causes. He emphasizes that we are at a critical juncture in history. We now face a “decision-window.” We are headed on a path towards global breakdown where societies will experience accelerating terrorism, crime, wars, intolerance and an inhospitable biosphere for human life. Thus, there will either be a global breakdown of civilization or a breakthrough to a better future for our children and us.

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