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Some systems can be described as highly scalable, meaning that they will continue to perform well as the volume of data or number of users increases.

I'm looking for a similar word that would describe a system that continues to work well as the complexity of the subject matter it is applied to increases.

i.e

Size is to scalable as complexity is to ?

I thought of something like "complexifiable", but that doesn't seem to be a valid English word. I'd like to use this in a context where I'm comparing models or tools, and their varying ability to handle increasing complexity.

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  • 1
    adaptability Is close but is not limited to changes in complexity.
    – Jim
    Apr 24, 2021 at 3:19
  • 2
    Is the system itself allowed to change to accommodate changes? Would 'extensibility' count?
    – Joachim
    Apr 24, 2021 at 6:50

2 Answers 2

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Scalable does work here; it's not only about scale/size, but also about the capibility to expand/grow. The second definition of ‘scalable’ in Merriam-Webster is

  • capable of being easily expanded or upgraded on demand.

Also according to Wikipedia,

  • [s]calability is the property of a system to handle a growing amount of work by adding resources to the system.

And Cambridge Dictionary:

  • a business or system that is scalable can successfully grow larger using the same methods.

However, if you want a precise phrase, then you might want to use scalable complexity.

Other words that could be applied are: extensibility, computability or even flexibility.

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"Robust" has been used to describe systems that adapt to changes -- where changes indicate a wide range of conditions (often unanticipated conditions) such as increased volume. However, robust is an older word.

"capable of performing without failure under a wide range of conditions robust software." -- Merriam-Webster

Google's Oxford languages shows "robust" as the antonym of fragile.

"At scale" is a term used at AWS (Amazon Web Services) conferences to describe systems that can handle enormous amounts of volume and data such as, order management at Amazon. For example, DynamoDB (an AWS database product) is described as being capable of operating "at scale". You can hear Rick Houlihan use the term at the AWS re:Invent 2018 (Amazon DynamoDB Deep Dive: Advanced Design Patterns for DynamoDB (DAT401)) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaEPXoXVf2k

"Anti-fragile" is a term from Nassim Taleb describing systems that can adapt -- or at least survive -- unforeseen changes in conditions. He has a complete book describing AntiFragile, so my interpretation will be less than exact.

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    "Robust" denotes the capability of withstanding all sorts of adverse conditions, but is much too general. A robust system can definitely handle increased complexity, but a system that can handle complexity is not necessarily robust.
    – PcMan
    Apr 25, 2021 at 5:56

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