Believe it or not, resolving the issue of the “chippiness” of your chocolate chip ice cream is an exercise in complexity. There’s a variety of ways to approach it: some good, some bad. The optimum outcome is ensured if the testing panel is represented by different, but relevant, points of view.

Scott Page, Professor of Complex Systems, Political Science and Economics at the University of Michigan, explained in an address to the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts (RSA) in London today how Ben & Jerry’s determined the volume and size of chips in their chocolate chip brand. Laying out a range of options in a large room, the testers placed tubs of rising chip size along one axis, and tubs with an increasing number of chips along the other axis. The grid produced all the various options in between. From a complexity theorist’s point of view, the resultant scores should look like a rugged landscape, with peaks of preference forming across the matrix pointing to the best combination.

But, as Page said, chippiness was only one way of looking at the problem. Continue reading ‘how “chippy” do you like your ice cream?’

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