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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Is the Future Deterministic?

24th September 2010, 08:45 to 15:00, Institute of Advanced Study, Cosin's Hall, Palace Green

A workshop to explore uncertainty in an increasingly complex world.

We often sense uncertainty in a complex world of cascading events from unexpected, seemingly minor, causes - from the financial crisis of 2008 to the rapid rise and fall of political figures, pop stars, and even cities. New phrases like 'tipping point', 'avalanche' or 'gaining traction' are everywhere, as if such cascades contradict common expectations of evolution, where the 'best' ideas and organisations ought to rise to prominence and stay there.

Unpredictability and flux were always the essence of Darwin's evolution, however. "Which groups will ultimately prevail," Darwin wrote, "no man can predict; for we well know that many groups, formerly most extensively developed, have now become extinct.."

Though Darwin was arguably a gradualist, this workshop explores first the evolutionary tools for understanding flux and uncertainty in cascading events, as well as particularly revealing case studies from the history of technology, commerce, and urban development.

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