Diagram: Attractor States

Attractor States

Complex Systems can unfold in multiple trajectories. However, there may be trajectories that become more stable of 'fit'. Such states are considered 'attractor states' to which a system tends to gravitate.

or 'basins of attraction' and can be visualized as part of a fitness landscape.

Complex Adaptive Systems do not obey predictable, linear trajectories. They are Sensitive to Initial Conditions and small changes in these conditions can lead the system to unfold in entirely unexpected ways. That said, some of these 'potential unfoldings' are more likely to occur than others. We can think of these as 'attractor states' to which a system - out of all possible states - will tend to gravitate.  However, these attractor states may also shift over time, and are subject to system disruptions or  what is referred to as a Perturbation. Attractor states can also emerge gradually over time, as the system evolves, but once present can reinforce itself by constraining the actions of the agents forming the system. Thus we can think of Silicon Valley as being an emergent attractor for tech firms, that has, over time, reinforced its position. When a system finds itself 'trapped' in a basin of attraction (such that it cannot explore other potential configurations that may be more fit, it is considered to be in an Enslaved State.  

A number of terms and ideas are used to refer to attractor points in complex systems: areas to which the system gravitates. 

There may be subtle differences in terms, but most of these differences in terminology arise depending on which field of inquiry is articulating the concept. Depending on if the 'source' field is mathematics, physics, or philosophy, different terms are used to reference the same phenomena: in this case the existence of 'attractor' states in complex systems that signify fitness. The following terminology is also used to reference the same general phenomena:

 

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