Using Complexity to Calibrate Legal Response to Covid-19

Ofer Malcai, Michal Shur-Ofry*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The global effort to fight the Covid-19 pandemic triggered the adoption of unusual legal measures that restrict individual freedoms and raise acute legal questions. Yet, the conventional legal tools available to analyze those questions—including legal notions such as proportionality, equality, or the requisite levels of evidence—implicitly presume stable equilibria, and fail to capture the nonlinear properties of the pandemic. Because the pandemic diffuses in a complex system, using complexity theory can help align the law with its dynamics and produce a more effective legal response. We demonstrate how insights from complexity concerning temporal and spatial diffusion patterns, or the structure of the social network, can provide counter-intuitive answers to a series of pandemic-related legal questions pertaining to limitations of movement, privacy, business and religious freedoms, or prioritizing access to vaccines. This analysis could further inform legal policies aspiring to handle additional phenomena that diffuse in accordance with the principles of complexity.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number650943
JournalFrontiers in Physics
StatePublished - 26 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to the two referees of this paper for their extremely valuable suggestions. For helpful comments and discussions we thank Yaneer Bar-Yam, Doron Teichman, Eyal Zamir, and the participants of the Physics of Law conference (November 2020, online), and the Cyber Center Workshop at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (January 2021, online). Stav Cohen and Roi Ohayon provided excellent research assistance. Funding. This research was supported by ISF grant number 1322/18.

Funding Information:
This research was supported by ISF grant number 1322/18.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Malcai and Shur-Ofry.


  • COVID-19
  • complexity
  • evidence
  • exponential diffusion
  • fractal
  • law
  • networks and privacy
  • proportionality


Dive into the research topics of 'Using Complexity to Calibrate Legal Response to Covid-19'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this