Diagram: Attractor States

Attractor Statesdefinition/feature.php

Complex Systems can unfold in multiple trajectories. However, there may be trajectories that become more stable of 'fit'. Such states are considered 'attractor states' to which a system tends to gravitate.

Attractor States or 'basins of attraction' and can be visualized as part of a fitness landscape.

Complex Adaptive Systems do not obey predictable, linear trajectories. They are Sensitive to Initial Conditions and small changes in these conditions can lead the system to unfold in entirely unexpected ways. That said, some of these 'potential unfoldings' are more likely to occur than others. We can think of these as 'attractor states' to which a system - out of all possible states - will tend to gravitate.  However, these attractor states may also shift over time, and are subject to system disruptions or  what is referred to as a Perturbation. Attractor states can also emerge gradually over time, as the system evolves, but once present can reinforce itself by constraining the actions of the agents forming the system. Thus we can think of Silicon Valley as being an emergent attractor for tech firms, that has, over time, reinforced its position. When a system finds itself 'trapped' in a basin of attraction (such that it cannot explore other potential configurations that may be more fit, it is considered to be in an Enslaved States .

Further, complex systems can sometimes oscillate between more than one attractor state. Thus, if we have a complex predator/prey ecosystem, the population numbers of each species might each rise and crash in a recurring pattern over multiple generations. This is because...

Any system that has both a driver and an inhibitor, and a time lag between the two, will tend to enter into such oscillating regimes. Here is an example of a chemical regime, known as the Briggs Rauscher chemical oscillator.

A number of terms and ideas are used to refer to attractor points in complex systems: areas to which the system gravitates.

There may be subtle differences in terms, but most of these differences in terminology arise depending on which field of inquiry is articulating the concept. Depending on if the 'source' field is mathematics, physics, or philosophy, different terms are used to reference the same phenomena: in this case the existence of 'attractor' states in complex systems that signify fitness. The following terminology is also used to reference the same general phenomena:


Photo Credit and Caption: Underwater image of fish in Moofushi Kandu, Maldives, by Bruno de Giusti (via Wikimedia Commons)

Cite this page:

Wohl, S. (2020, 30 July). Attractor States. Retrieved from https://kapalicarsi.wittmeyer.io/definition/attractor-statesbasins

Attractor States was updated July 30th, 2020.

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