Complexity Scientist Beats Traffic Jams Through Adaptation

To solve a complex problem, Gershenson believes, scientists need to let go of traditional methods and find novel ways to study ever-changing challenges. “Science and engineering have assumed that the world is predictable, and that we just need to find the proper laws of nature to be able to foresee the future,” he wrote while he was a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Northeastern University in 2016. “But the study of complex systems has shown that this assumption is misguided.”

By using computer simulations that specialize in adaptation and not in prediction, Gershenson uses self-organization as a tool to improve urban mobility. Although most of the transport-system solutions he has proposed to various cities have encountered political and bureaucratic obstacles, his ideas were implemented successfully in Mexico City’s metro system in 2016.