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James Glattfelder  

Complex Systems Theorist

James B. Glattfelder aims to give us a richer, data-driven understanding of the people and interactions that control our global economy. He does this not to push an ideology — but with the hopes of making the world a better place.

First a physicist and then a researcher at a Swiss hedge fund, James B. Glattfelder found himself amazed by the level of understanding we have in regards to the physical world and universe around us. He wondered: how can we move toward a similar understanding of human society?

This question led him to the study of complex systems, a subject he now holds a Ph.D in from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Glattfelder is co-head of quantitative research at Olsen Ltd in Zurich, an FX investment manager focusing on market-stabilizing algorithms. In 2011, he co-authored the study “The Network of Global Corporate Control,” which went viral in the international media and sparked many controversial discussions. The study looked at the architecture of ownership across the globe, and computed a level of control exerted by each international player. The study revealed that less than 1% of all the players in the global economy are part of a highly interconnected and powerful core which, because of the high levels of overlap, leaves the economy vulnerable.

He is co-head of quantitative research at Olsen Ltd in Zurich, an FX investment manager focusing on market-stabilizing algorithms. James holds an M.Sc. in theoretical physics and a Ph.D. in the study of complex systems, both from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

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Decoding Complexity

It sounds paradoxical, but today it appears that we understand more about the universe than our society. We have created systems that have outgrown our capacity to genuinely understand and control them. Just think about the ongoing financial crisis. But recent advancements in the study of complex systems are able to offer new insights into the workings of many real-world systems.

While our traditional ways of thinking and problem solving have been strongly shaped by the success of the reductionist approach taken in science, the new science of complexity focuses on interconnection and co-dependence. It is a paradigmatic shift away from analyzing the nature of “things” to uncovering and understanding the network of interdependence lying behind and influencing the “things” themselves.

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