A September meeting of the Applied Complexity Network (ACtioN) in London tested the link between SFI’s scientific research and its practical application.

The ACtioN Limits to Prediction meeting, which drew participants from business and government, followed a meeting of scientists that took place in August at SFI. Both meetings concerned factors that determine the precision and reliability with which a system’s behavior can be predicted.

“Previously, a popular scientific topic at the Institute one year might be featured in a topical meeting a few years later,” says Will Tracy, SFI’s VP of Strategic Partnerships.“  There was a tendency for the ACtioN topics to lag behind the scientific topics.”

This time, attendees of the London meeting heard presentations on the topics the researchers at the Santa Fe science meeting had, just weeks before, deemed among the most interesting new insights. Other scientists from the UK and Europe also joined the ACtioN dialog.

“From the feedback we’ve gotten, it seems to have worked quite well,” Tracy says.

Not only were ACtioN members provided access to scientific insights sooner and more directly than they would have been offered them in the past, visiting presenters from the research community garnered a new and richer understanding of the sorts of insights that stand to yield immediate practical benefit.

Formerly known as the Business Network, ACtioN acquired its new name and acronym earlier this year. Members are businesses, institutions, and agencies that draw on complex systems science to understand complex systems in their worlds: economies, markets, organizational structures, ecosystems, digital networks, political systems, and other kinds of adaptive interactive networks.

Both meetings explored the idea that increasing a system’s heterogeneity or the number of rules governing it sometimes makes it more predictable, not less. Another common theme was the difficulty of accurately modeling and predicting a system’s behavior if not all its possible states are known.