Dr. Bruce J. West

Army Research Office, Durham, North Carolina, USA

Bruce J. West, PhD, joined the Army Research Office (ARO) as a senior research scientist (ST) in June 1999 and now has more than 49 years of experience developing the mathematical models and formal infrastructures to bridge the gaps separating the understanding and control of the complex phenomena within the life, physical and social sciences. His work has quantified the information transfer between complex networks, as in the control of physiological systems by the brain, the adaption of an individual to social groups, and the control of crowds by zealots. He has authored over 300 peer-reviewed journal articles, 35 book chapters and 21 books, garnering over 21,000 citations resulting in an h-factor of 70.

Prior to joining ARO he had been Professor and Chair, Physics Department, University of North Texas (1989-99) & Founding Director of Center for Nonlinear Science (1995). Professor West was honored with the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award 2017 by President Trump, elected a Fellow of AAAS, ARL & APS and, in addition to multiple other awards, received the Presidential Meritorious Rank Award 2012 by President Obama.

Dr. West earned a MS (1967) and PhD (1970) in physics from the University Rochester and a BA (1965) in physics from SUNY@Buffalo.


Day 3: September 13, 2019 | Plenary Address | 8:40 AM - 9:20 AM

Paradox Entails New Kinds of Knowledge in Medicine and Elsewhere

Bruce J. West, PhD, Army Research Office, Durham, North Carolina, USA

My remarks focus on the inevitability of complexity entailing paradox in the scientific modeling of complex phenomena, independently of whether that complexity occurs in the physical, social or life sciences. We examine how encountering a logical contradiction (a paradox) in the interpretation of experimental data using simple models, forces the development of next generation mega-models, or theory. The new theory addresses emergent properties by identifying macrovariables for their description, which are independent of the dynamics of the microvariables they replace. The collective behavior captured by the macrovariables is often at variance with the more familiar reductionist theories with which we are more comfortable.

Identifying and resolving the paradoxes generated by complexity leads to not just new knowledge, but to new kinds of knowledge often incompatible with prior understanding. Exemplars will be drawn from medicine and elsewhere and discussed. Recent research has shown that one resolution of such paradox rests on a two-level network model of cognition, which is an instantiation of Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow. This is the self-organized temporal criticality (SOTC) model. The emergent macrobehavior resolves paradoxes and invariably produces a new way of thinking about familiar phenomena, one that could not be envisioned prior to the resolution. The logical contradiction is resolved by direct calculation, using the SOTC model, The SOTC model shows how one may formally overcome a paradox by replacing an either/or with a both/and way of thinking.