Complex Systems

AI systems and the societies they operate within can be described as complex systems. Effective strategies for AI safety need to take account of the unique properties of complex systems.


AI systems and the societies they operate within belong to the class of complex systems. This has important implications for ensuring AI safety. Complex systems exhibit surprising behaviors and defy conventional analysis methods that examine individual components in isolation. We explore how unintended side effects often result from interventions in complex systems. To develop effective strategies for AI safety, it is crucial to adopt approaches that account for the unique properties of complex systems and enable us to anticipate and address AI risks.

Further reading

M. Gell-Mann, The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple and the Complex, St. Martin's Publishing Group, 1995.

D. H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer. Chelsea Green Publishing, United Kingdom, 2008.

J. H. Miller and S. E. Page, Complex Adaptive Systems: An Introduction to Computational Models of Social Life. Princeton University Press, United Kingdom, 2009.

J. Gall, The Systems Bible. General Systemantics Press, 2002.

R. Cook, "How Complex Systems Fail," 1998.

Discussion Questions

Review Questions