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Complexity: Can it be Simplified? (EN)

What do pandemics, economic crises, traffic jams, consciousness, the climate, immune systems and flocks of birds have in common? They can all be described as complex systems.

Our most urgent societal challenges involve system-wide changes in highly interrelated complex systems. The solutions for these crises involve changing social and technological systems at unprecedented rates, balancing fairness and moral principles in the process. Juggling these interdisciplinary and multidimensional problems requires understanding these issues across the traditional boundaries of science. That means that we need a common language! Complexity.

Complexity refers to the property of many systems and the emergent features that make them hard to manage. It means having multiple different elements interacting and adapting in ways that are not intuitive at first. Only through the experience of the phenomena that arise in complex systems, in several contexts, is it possible to be familiar with the features of complexity and to gain intuition on why they exist and behave the way they do.

In this course, you will learn about complex systems and how we can understand them. You will hear examples from experts in different fields – e.g., ecosystems and evolution, the global climate, stock markets, epidemics, criminal, neural, and social networks – and hear about their intricate behaviour. In the meantime, you will develop a common language to consolidate and communicate complex concepts. You will learn a tool to quantify these difficult concepts and build a simple complex system.


Vítor V. Vasconcelos

Entry requirements

This course is open for Bachelor's and Master's students and other interested parties, such as contract students, students from other institutions and UvA staff. Please note: Contract students and staff members who wish to take the course without examination can only participate in the first part of the course (lectures).

For Master's students, High school-level mathematics is required since a detailed analysis of the computational model is obligatory in their group assignment. 


You can find the timetable on Datanose.
We now expect that all lectures can take place on-campus. However, if the regulations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus are intensified, we may be forced to organise our education online. Course fees will remain unchanged for contract students. Before and during the course, you will be informed about the latest regulations.

As a contract student, please read the course-specific information carefully, since the courses vary in possibilities for contract students.


Prices can be found on the IIS website.


Registration is open from 6 December until one week prior to the start of the course. UvA students can register in SIS  (look for code: 5512COMP6Y). Other interested parties can register by completing the online registration form. If you have any trouble while registering, please contact us at

More information

SDGs in education

The IIS strives to reflect current societal issues and challenges in our elective courses, honours modules and degree programmes and attempts to integrate the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in this course. For more information about these goals, please visit the SDGs website.

Facts & Figures
Mode Short-term
Credits 6 ECTS,
Language of instruction English
Conditions for admission Open