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Complex systems approach

Systems are sets of entities, physical or abstract, comprising a whole where each component interacts with or is related to at least one other component and they all serve a common objective. The scientific research field which is engaged in the interdisciplinary study of universal system-based properties of the world is general system theory, systems science and recently systemics. This field investigates the abstract properties of matter and mind, and their organization, searching for concepts and principles which are independent of the specific domain, substance, and type of system, and of the spatial and/or temporal scales of its existence.

Systems science can be viewed as ... "a metalanguage of concepts and models for interdisciplinary use, still now evolving and far from being stabilized. This is the result of a slow process of accretion through inclusion and interconnection of many notions, which came and are still coming from very different disciplines. The process started more than a century ago, but has gathered momentum since 1948 through the pioneering work of Norbert Wiener, John von Neumann, Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Heinz von Foerster and W. Ross Ashby, among many others" (Charles François, 1999).


Selected article

Systems engineering application projects collage.jpg

Systems engineering is an interdisciplinary field of engineering, that focuses on the development and organization of complex artificial systems. Systems engineering is defined by INCOSE as "a branch of engineering whose responsibility is creating and executing an interdisciplinary process to ensure that customer and stakeholder's needs are satisfied in a high quality, trustworthy, cost efficient and schedule compliant manner throughout a system's entire life cycle, from development to operation to disposal. This process is usually comprised of the following seven tasks: State the problem, Investigate alternatives, Model the system, Integrate, Launch the system, Assess performance, and Re-evaluate. The systems engineering process is not sequential: the tasks are performed in a parallel and iterative manner."

Systems engineering techniques are used in complex projects: from spacecraft to chip design, from robotics to creating large software products to building bridges, Systems engineering uses a host of tools that include modeling & simulation, requirements analysis, and scheduling to manage complexity.


Selected picture

Chicago Downtown Aerial View.jpg

An aerial view of a human ecosystem. Pictured is the city of Chicago.


Selected systems scientist

W. Ross Ashby (September 6, 1903, London - November 15, 1972) was an English psychiatrist and a pioneer in cybernetics, the study of complex systems. His first name was never used, and generally, he was called 'Ross Ashby'.

Despite being widely influential within cybernetics, systems theory and, more recently, complex systems, he is not nearly as well known as many of the notable scientists his work influenced including Herbert A. Simon, Norbert Wiener, Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Stafford Beer and Stuart Kauffman.




Did you know

  • ...that a successful experimental system must be stable and reproducible enough for scientists to make sense of the system's behavior, but unpredictable enough that it can produce useful results?
  • ... that the American systems scientist John Nelson Warfield found systems science to consist of a hierarchy of sciences.
    • Beginning at the base, with a science of description,
    • continuing vertically with a science of design,
    • then a science of complexity,
    • and next a science of action, called "Interactive management".





Systems science topics


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