In 1903, French mathematician Henri Poincare introduced the notions of chaos theory while studying the famous three-body problem. The three body problem required a prediction of the movement of a simplified solar system consisting of the sun, moon and earth governed by the Newtonian laws of motion.

Poincare found out that even a system as simple as this, behaved in unpredictable ways and concluded that the three-body problem was unsolvable. Understanding more complex systems such as the earth’s weather required a new direction of thought. This led to a new brand of science called chaos theory. A theory whose main premise was that, small changes in the initial conditions could result in vast differences in the final outcome.

Chaos theory remained a curiosity until the advent of high speed computers and computer modeling in the 1960’s. In 1961, Edward Lorentz was modeling the earth’s weather with a computer and found that the smallest change at the one-millionth of a decimal point could make his predictions useless. He called this result “The Butterfly effect”.

In the 1970’s Benoit Mandelbrot added fractals to chaos theory. Fractals are the bi products or patterns left behind by dynamically changing systems. The inherent property with a cloud or a coast line is that, no matter how close or far away one gets to them, their basic pattern always remains the same. At the end of the 20th century, the long road to discover the simplicity behind the complexity of everyday life had been reversed. Using a computer, one could start with a simple system and in time life like complexities emerge.

Self organizing clusters come into play and interact with each other. Structures that are on the advent of radical change are formed. This is how human ecosystems and complex mechanisms like the stock market behave. Chaos theory in combination with quantum mechanics remains a very promising direction to be seen in the future. Chaos theory can be used to predict the unpredictability in human behavior and might have strong implications in areas like artificial intelligence.

Praneeth Vepakomma