860-0022-00L  Complexity and Global Systems Science

SemesterSpring Semester 2021
LecturersD. Helbing, S. Mahajan
Periodicityyearly recurring course
Language of instructionEnglish
CommentNumber of participants limited to 50.

Prerequisites: solid mathematical skills.

Particularly suitable for students of D-ITET, D-MAVT and ISTP


860-0022-00 SComplexity and Global Systems Science2 hrs
Tue18:15-20:00RZ F 21 »
D. Helbing, S. Mahajan

Catalogue data

AbstractThis course discusses complex techno-socio-economic systems, their counter-intuitive behaviors, and how their theoretical understanding empowers us to solve some long-standing problems that are currently bothering the world.
ObjectiveParticipants should learn to get an overview of the state of the art in the field, to present it in a well understandable way to an interdisciplinary scientific audience, to develop models for open problems, to analyze them, and to defend their results in response to critical questions. In essence, participants should improve their scientific skills and learn to think scientifically about complex dynamical systems.
ContentThis course starts with a discussion of the typical and often counter-intuitive features of complex dynamical systems such as self-organization, emergence, (sudden) phase transitions at "tipping points", multi-stability, systemic instability, deterministic chaos, and turbulence. It then discusses phenomena in networked systems such as feedback, side and cascading effects, and the problem of radical uncertainty. The course progresses by demonstrating the relevance of these properties for understanding societal and, at times, global-scale problems such as traffic jams, crowd disasters, breakdowns of cooperation, crime, conflict, social unrests, political revolutions, bubbles and crashes in financial markets, epidemic spreading, and/or "tragedies of the commons" such as environmental exploitation, overfishing, or climate change. Based on this understanding, the course points to possible ways of mitigating techno-socio-economic-environmental problems, and what data science may contribute to their solution.
Lecture notes"Social Self-Organization
Agent-Based Simulations and Experiments to Study Emergent Social Behavior"
Helbing, Dirk
ISBN 978-3-642-24004-1
LiteraturePhilip Ball
Why Society Is A Complex Matter

Globally networked risks and how to respond
Nature: Link

Global Systems Science and Policy

Managing Complexity: Insights, Concepts, Applications

Further links:





Further literature will be recommended in the lectures.
Prerequisites / NoticeMathematical skills can be helpful

Performance assessment

Performance assessment information (valid until the course unit is held again)
Performance assessment as a semester course
ECTS credits3 credits
ExaminersD. Helbing, S. Mahajan
Typegraded semester performance
Language of examinationEnglish
RepetitionRepetition only possible after re-enrolling for the course unit.
Additional information on mode of examinationStudents are expected to actively contribute to the lectures if there are sufficiently few participants, each one will have to give a 20 minute presentation on a scientific paper selected together with the lecturer. These papers are typically about mathematical derivations and models related to the lecture.

Learning materials

No public learning materials available.
Only public learning materials are listed.


No information on groups available.


Places50 at the most
Waiting listuntil 09.03.2021

Offered in

Doctoral Department of Humanities, Social and Political SciencesDoctoral and Post-Doctoral CoursesWInformation
GESS Science in PerspectiveSociologyWInformation
GESS Science in PerspectiveD-ITETWInformation
GESS Science in PerspectiveD-MAVTWInformation
Science, Technology, and Policy MasterElectivesWInformation
Public Policy BachelorElective CoursesWInformation
Environmental Sciences MasterTheoretical Foundations for Environmental PolicyWInformation