CCSS Societal Discussion #09: Why We Behave Hierarchically


This lecture is an online discussion organised under our CCSS Societal Discussion Series: Fundamentals of Complex Systems. In this lecture series, we will focus on more philosophical and overarching issues of complex systems.

For the foreseeable future, lectures will remain predominantly online.

Speaker Overview

Tamas Vicsek currently holds the position of Professor emeritus of Physics at Eotvos University (Budapest). He has been a senior scientist with the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and ELKH since 2017. Tamas completed his MSc degree at Moscow State University in 1972 and obtained his PhD in 1976 at Lajos Kossuth University, Hungary. His research throughout the years has focused on pattern formation, collective phenomena in biological systems (flocking, oscillations, crowds), structure and evolution of complex networks, percolation theory, aggregation phenomena, fractal growth, and much more. He has published 6 books and over 300 scientific papers. His current research includes hierarchy and its effect on systems such as flocks of drones and self-organizing networks. He is the namesake for the Vicsek fractal and the Vicsek model of swarm behaviour. 



Hierarchy is a fundamental concept regarding the structure and behaviour of complex systems in nature. It possesses several basic aspects, such as self-similarity, dominance, directed (top-to-bottom) sets of interactions. The scale over which hierarchy is present ranges from the building blocks of matter to large organizations (such as, universities or entire societies).
      A natural interpretation of hierarchical relations is associating a network with them. Such networks have specific features, they have “levels”, communities, etc. Approaching complex systems from the point of “actions” there is a set of behavioural patterns corresponding to the underlying network. The rules followed by moving creatures represent a common manifestation of how hierarchical actions may appear in life.
      The simplest way to put the answer to the question put in the title is that hierarchical structures perform better, or in other words, are more efficient. In a way, they result in more benefit for less cost. This is true for the entire system, but in almost all cases, it also holds that even the individual units gain benefit from this sort of cooperation. In this talk, in addition to introducing and demonstrating some of the related phenomena, I shall consider some of the fundamental questions which can be raised in the context of the above observations. 

Meeting Details

There will be 45-min lecture from the speaker, followed by a 45-min Question & Answer session.

To attend the lecture, please click this link at 15:00 on Thursday 10th December 2020.

The event will be held via Zoom.

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