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Tipping Points in Social, Economic and Biological Systems

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Helen Mawdsley.

The term ‘tipping point’ is often used to describe disruptive or abrupt change in a system. Often associated with emergence and emergent processes, the term ‘tipping point’ is applied to an event that could not easily have been predicted prior to it happening. The Tipping Points Project (an interdisciplinary project at Durham University) is focused on developing our understanding of what it means for a system to go through a tipping point, what types of systems display tipping point behaviour, can we develop a capacity to predict tipping points, and ultimately how useful the term tipping point is as a descriptor for a system.

This presentation will focus number of potential ‘tipping point’ systems that we are currently investigating; selection and diffusion in culture and how some things become popular at the expense of others. Organisational ecologies, particularly how British banks have behaved as a population over the last 200 years. Finally, we use the example of self-organisation in biological simulations if auxin transport to highlight some of the difficulties of modelling emergent processes. To understand these systems it is important to develop an understanding of the rules of the game. That is, what potential behaviours must the agents of the system have to produce the system behaviour, and how do we find them?

This talk is part of the Sainsbury Laboratory Seminars series.

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