Complex Adaptive Systems are also known as Fractal Systems, in regards to their ’scale-independent’ or ‘fractal’ structure.
The fractal characteristic (or scale-independence) of Complex Adaptive Systems is that features of the whole are present in each of the component parts … this is also known as ’self-similarity’ … patterns that repeat at different scales.
Our ‘problems’ are (in certain cases) fractal ‘patterns’ on various scales of our eco/socio-economic system. So, too, solutions can be fractal: an effective re-build of a system structure at one level can/will be a solution on various scales.
Urban Transformation is the practical application of this principle: the improper design of the existing residential subdivisions in a primary component of many integrated multi-scalar (fractal) ‘problems’ … we can transform the existing residential subdivisions into real Communities, by design, with solutions as emergent properties on various scales.
Actually, the concept of fractals was originally an academic methodology from mathematics and physics: fractal geometry.
‘Our’ interests concern fractals in nature, which are ‘approximate’ – rather than the ‘exact’ fractal forms/shapes generated with computer imaging from mathematical fomulae. Fractals in nature include, inanimate (geographic, geologic, etc.) and living organisms; also, social organizations … ’social organisms’ – groups of various amounts of ‘agents’.
Systems are generally ‘nested’ – with greater systems comprised of component ’sub-systems’ (in which, in turn, one or more of it’s components may be a system).
Furthermore, the ‘emergent property’ of a system – it’s ’structure’ or behaviour/pattern may be a nested system. For instance, the health of an individual person is an ‘emergent property’ of her/his physio/pyschological system: this person’s health affects the family, community, social healthcare system and socio-economic system as a greater whole. If a person has a health ‘problem’ it is fractal in the sense that the problems (taken as the aggregate of population) give rise to patterns on various scales: so, too, ’solutions’ will be fractal patterns.
So, the fractal ‘aspect’ involves the system ‘itself’, being of a fractal structure’, as well as the ‘emergent property’.
A primary characteristic feature of complex adaptive (fractal) systems, is of ’scale-invariance’. This refers to the resilience of a structure or emergent property (pattern) at a particular scale, while highly interactive fluctuations occur at other scales. This is what provides stability to an emergent structure – the stability of the whole, which is an emergent pattern of the highly interactive parts.
With regards to our purpose of resolving our ecological and socio-economic ‘problems’, the goal is to identify the appropriate fractal ’scale’ or ‘aspect’ in which to intervene in order to achieve the best ‘overall’ beneficial result (systemic change; improvement) at the least ‘overall’ cost, impact and time period.
We seek the most cost-effective ’solutions’, obviously.
And, the solutions we seek must achieve at least the minimal required beneficial systemic non-reveresible change. Preferably more than minimal. Really, we seek optimization.
A ‘problem’ is actually an emergent property of an existing ‘functionally problematic situation’.
When we speak of ’solutions’, what we really need/want/seek are ‘effective situations’ … in which a solution is an emergent property of an effectively resolved situation … a functionally effective situation is the ultimate goal.
Since systems and fractals, etc. are universal in nature, learning from nature and applying the lessons is the best (only?!) means of resolving our man-made ‘problems’. Learning nature’s lessons, and reapplying: this is biomimicy. Since nature is the ultimate in optimization, it is through biomimicry that we can optimize practical solutions.
The current residential subdivisions are a primary component of our problematic situations and lead to various fractal ‘emergent problems’.
So, transforming the structural form of the residential subdivisions into real, balanced and diverse Communities will lead to fractal emergent ’solutions’ on various scales. Transforming the community-scale system structure … achieving a beneficial systemic non-reversible change … will result in fractal solutions throughout various scales of ecological, social and economic systems.
Moreover, true integrated community systems will exhibit scale-invariance of stability: while the interacting ‘agents’ of the system fluctuate over time, the vibrant local economies and culture will be resilient. Similarly, the various scales of fractal solutions will be stable ‘patterns’.