Photo of Andrew Seely
Andrew Seely

Introduction to Complexity Science

My mother was a family doctor and therapist and she demonstrated in her practice an attention to not just the disease or the patient but on the interplay between the patient and family and how necessary mobilizing social support was for health in the face of life long illness.

My PhD was initially focused on the neutrophil. I put together 5 knowledge papers about the neutrophil to add to a growing body of research that supported one of two camps: the neutrophil is essential for host defense or the neutrophil is harmful in states of overwhelming acute illness. After hearing a lecture from Dr. Peter Machlum on the topic of airway impedance variability and hearing the same equations used in earthquake or avalanche dynamics could be applied to airwary impedance variability, I realized that an infinite among to knowledge about the neutrophil will not help Mrs. Jones recover from acute respiratory failure. That pointed me toward studying in which individuals and circumstances could the neutrophil response can be supported or repressed – a more interdependent focus rather than a knowledge quest about the neutrophil in isolation.

Does Complexity Science influence your day to day experience?

It is part of my view of life, my philosophy. I recognize the inherent reality of an uncertain future. I try to foster my ability to make sense of the evolving present in a dynamic way rather than making fixed decisions. There is a significant amount of uncertainty that is non-reductable.

It also makes me see the importance of variation. I seek out variety. Variability is the spice or energy of life, it provides a life of rich experience.

If you had to create a Complexity Science public service announcement, what would you say?

Come study with a fantastic group of multidisciplinary people who are fundamentally wholistic, who use innovative techniques to make the world a better place and improve care for our patients. It is complimentary to reductionistic science and popular social theories, coalescing those foundational components and adding a systems lens to make sense of the variation we all experience.


“Come have fun with Geeks”

What would you ask a group of Complexity Scientists if you had them around a table?

How does complex systems and sciences get to the heart, the purpose, the methods of research?

We need to complete rigorous evaluation of whatever we are talking about. It is not enough to say CS&S gives us new understandings. We need to answer how has CS&S useful in impacting the world? That is where the energy is, in our ability to apply this field to the betterment of the world.