Adaptive Systems

The term "adaptive systems" or "complex adaptive systems" was coined by John H. Holland an American scientist and professor. His essay, Outline for a Logical Theory of Adaptive Systems deals with the theory of adaptive system as well as the actual theorems and algorithms which go into developing such a system.

John H. Holland

A Complex Adaptive System (CAS) is a dynamic network of many agents (which may represent cells, species, individuals, firms, nations) acting in parallel, constantly acting and reacting to what the other agents are doing. The control of a CAS tends to be highly dispersed and decentralized. If there is to be any coherent behavior in the system, it has to arise from competition and cooperation among the agents themselves. The overall behavior of the system is the result of a huge number of decisions made every moment by many individual agents.

Kevin Dooley

A CAS behaves/evolves according to three key principles: order is emergent as opposed to predetermined , the system's history is irreversible, and the system's future is often unpredictable. The basic building blocks of the CAS are agents. Agents scan their environment and develop schema representing interpretive and action rules. These schema are subject to change and evolution.

In the most simplest terms, an Adaptive System is one that can adapt and learn. A Complex Adaptive System is different because it contains various components that work together. The adaptive aspect allow the system to not only react as programmed, but to develop and decide on its own way to react to a problem. This emergence of a knew solution is directly related to changes in its environment or in parts of the system itself.

Examples of Adapitve Systems would be a human, a family or an organization. Robots also work using some of these kinds of systems.

Sources (APA) (2008) Adaptive Systems. Retrieved January 21, 2008, from

Holland, John H. (1962) Outline for a Logical Theory of Adaptive Systems. Retrieved January 21, 2008, from (2008) Complex Adaptive Systems. Retrieved January 21, 2008, from

By Brian Santangelo