Rodney Brooks recently penned an essay on the need for a new mathematics "that is so revolutionary and elegantly simple that it will appear in high-school curricula." He claims that understanding biological systems "demands it."
Brooks suggests that current tools (mathematics) are brittle when it comes to the challenge of describing "systems" (emphasis added):
Currently, many different forms of mathematics are used to model and understand complicated systems. Algebras can tell you how many solutions there might be to an equation. The algebra of group theory is crucial in understanding the complex crystal structures of matter. The calculus of derivatives and integrals lets you understand the relationships between continuous quantities and their rates of change... Boolean algebra is the core tool for analyzing digital circuits; statistics provides insight into the overall behavior of large groups that have local unpredictability; geometry helps explain abstract problems that can be mapped into spatial terms; lambda calculus and pi-calculus enable an understanding of formal computational systems...
...all these tools have provided only limited help when it comes to understanding complex biological systems ... inadequate to explaining how networks of hundreds of millions of computers work, or how and when artificial evolutionary techniques -- applied to fields like software development -- will succeed.
Virtual worlds - insofar as they represent large dynamic systems that comingle art, technology, sociology, engineering, economics, and yes, A Theory of Fun - might seem to present a messier take. Given the size and interconnectedness of this realm how is it possible to usefully talk about any substantial piece of it without lashing together many stove-pipe intuitions?
From time to time some do scratch out notations to help quantify a little of these surfaces. Perhaps coming one day to a high-school near you will be new and better tools for so many blind people to converse about this very large elephant.