The geometric precision of Balinese rice terraces has inspired many postcard photographers. Viewed from above, for example in satellite imagery from Google Earth, a changing mosaic of colors appears: green when the rice is young, yellow as it nears harvest, silver when the paddies are flooded, and brown when they are drained. These colors are not uniform across the island, because Bali is an equatorial island with only two seasons, wet and dry. Consequently farmers can plant their crops at any time, though they avoid harvests in the rainy season. Here we show that the observable mosaic patterns are consistent with a process of self-organized criticality driven by an endogenous process of adaptation. As the system evolves to the critical point and correlation lengths diverge, harvests reach a global optimum and microscopic details are washed out.


Steve Lansing Director, Complexity Institute Professor, Asian School of the Environment Nanyang Technological University External Professor, Santa Fe Institute

Invited Talk e-session



Photos by : Horia Varlan