SEED asked eleven researchers to share the single most vital lesson from their life’s work. Every answer is about systems. Two samples:
“You can make sense of anything that changes smoothly in space or time, no matter how wild and complicated it may appear, by reimagining it as an infinite series of infinitesimal changes, each proceeding at a constant (and hence much simpler) rate, and then adding all those simple little changes back together to reconstitute the original whole.”
—Steven Strogatz is a mathematician at Cornell University.
“Many social and natural phenomena—societies, economies, ecosystems, climate systems—are complex evolving webs of interdependent parts whose collective behavior cannot be reduced to a sum of parts; small, gradual changes in any component can trigger catastrophic and potentially irreversible changes in the entire system that can propagate, in domino fashion, even across traditional disciplinary boundaries.”
—George Sugihara is a theoretical biologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.