Critical Transitions in Complex Systems: Are There Reliable Early Warning Signals?

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Co-hosted by Towers Watson

Held at 21 Tothill Street, Westminster, London, UK

Friday, September 26, 2014

Summary: One of the distinguishing features of complex systems is the existence of critical transitions or “tipping points” that separate relatively stable regions of system behavior. In physics, such transitions are observable as “phase transitions” between different states of matter, such as ice and liquid water. Tipping points have been observed over a wide variety of complex systems, from financial markets, to ecosystems, to the international economy, to the climate. Recent work in a number of different fields has attempted, with some success, to develop generally applicable “early warning signals” of critical transitions across a variety of application areas. This meeting will review critical transitions in complex systems and will present a critical analysis of alternative early warning signals.