A Complexity Ladder for Big History


J. N. Nielsen


Complexity is a central problem for big history because big history has made complexity a central theme, constructing a cosmological periodization based on the sequential emergence of qualitatively distinct forms of complexity. How can the big historian differentiate distinct thresholds of emergent complexity while subordinating the entire sequence of thresholds to a single metric of complexity that demonstrates the increase of complexity over multiple scales of magnitude and across qualitatively distinct forms of complexity? The cosmologists’ use of a cosmic distance ladder suggests an analogous construction for complexity: a complexity ladder for big history. While no complexity ladder is formulated in this paper, the program required for a complexity ladder is sketched.


Author Biography

J. N. Nielsen

J.N. ‘Nick’ Nielsen is an independent scholar from Oregon who studies emergent complexity, especially as it relates to civilization and its future in the context of big history. He has spoken about the future of civilization at several conferences (100YSS, Icarus Interstellar, SSoCIA), including the 2014 IBHA conference in San Rafael, the July 2019 IBHA symposium in Milan (where he spoke on ‘Peer Complexity during the Stelliferous Era ’), and the 2020 webinar, Being A Good Ancestor (speaking on ‘Scientific Approaches to Civilization’).