Complex Systems 2015
International Conference on Complex Systems in Business, Administration, Science and Engineering
12 - 14 May 2015
New Forest, UK
The first International Conference on Complex Systems in Business, Administration, Science and Engineering, took place in the New Forest, home of the Wessex Institute, organised by that Institute, represented by Prof Carlos A Brebbia, and the Open University, UK, represented by Prof George Rzevski. The meeting was sponsored by the International Journal of Design and Nature with Ecodynamics.
The conference brought together practitioners of a variety of disciplines interested in developing and discussing new approaches for resolving complex issues that cannot be formulated using conventional mathematical or software models.
Opening of the Conference
The meeting was opened by Carlos who explained the aims of his Institute to act as a medium for the transfer of technology through a series of meetings, training programmes and publications. The Institute’s strength is its close links with industry and, in particular, with those working on energy, aerospace and building technologies. The resulting software tools developed by the Wessex Institute are now widely applied throughout the world. They are based on the methods originated at the Institute over several decades, which gave birth to the Boundary Element Method.
Another important activity of WIT – Carlos said – is to reach across different disciplines bringing research groups together. This is achieved not only by the conferences and publications, but also by arranging a series of inaugural lectures associated with special awards.
Recently the Institute established, together with the University of Mississippi, a medal to honour the memory of George Green, the solitary genius who gave origin to modern integral equation techniques that evolved into Boundary Elements.
The most prominent and important medal, however, is the one in honour of Professor Ilya Prigogine, Nobel Prize Winner. Many of his ideas are at the core of some of the papers presented at this conference. Prigogine was also Honorary Chair of the WIT International Conference on Ecosystems and Sustainability, and Honorary Editor of the International Journal of Design and Nature, before his death in 2003. After that event the University of Siena and Wessex Institute set up a Gold Medal in his honour. The yearly award is given to renowned researchers in the field of ecological systems whose work built upon the work of Prigogine.
Carlos then explained some of the activities that take place in the New Forest Campus of the Wessex Institute, which the delegates visited during the conference. He ended his welcoming remarks by wishing them a successful meeting and a pleasant visit to the New Forest, a unique part of the world, arguably the nicest National Park in England.
George Rzevski gave a keynote address on ‘Complexity as the defining feature of the 21st century’, explaining that complexity is all around us and not simply the dream of mathematicians. Examples of natural and man-made complex systems are infinite. What is important now is to work on hybrid complex systems, such as socio-technologies, including political systems, the internet-based global market, thematical networks and others.
“Complexity – George said - is a property of open systems consisting of a very large number of diverse components, called agents, engaged in interaction and without central control.
Complex systems are distinguished by the following features:
- Autonomy agents
- Emergent behaviour
- Non equilibrium
Prigogine said that the “future is not given”, the world changes all the time in unexpected ways. His theories apply to several of the above features, including non-equilibrium, nonlinearity and self-organisation.
George explained that an important aspect is the co-evolution of society and technology. The 21st century is the age of socio-technological complexity, with a steep rise in technology, which marks the move from the industrial to the information society.
“We have now reached a situation of having global digital networks, everything is now connected, creating a global brain. The difference with the human brain is that the connection of the different parts is rather primitive, but this could improve and our planet become a huge brain.”
George then arrived at the conclusion that complex systems can work better when connected in a cluster, rather than every agent connected to every other. This can help to decouple areas of high levels of complexity. This would have avoided much of the recently experienced problems with the banking system.
“The way to achieve the best result is by having systems with the right degree of autonomy. These are highly complex systems that lead to emergence, self-organisation and co-evolution.
“For the systems where agent autonomy is severely restricted, complexity is low and is characterised by predictability, stability and rigidity. The best solution is not only to have systems that work well when the situation is favourable but those that allow the agents more autonomy when it has changed for the worst, ie to allow the systems to sort themselves out.
“The capability to adjust to changes in the environment in real time is the most desirable feature of complex systems. We can design organisations and artefacts to be adaptable by building into them more complexity. To make them work better is to design them as agents with a high degree of autonomy. Multiagent technology is a tool for modelling complexity.
“There are many examples of complex adaptive systems. They are such as scheduling of space cargo delivery; taxi networks in large cities; real-time scheduling of a swarm of small satellites; the design of an aircraft wing; adaptive logistics for distribution of parcels; adaptive aircraft servicing and many others.”
Two other interesting invited presentations were as follows:
- “On computing behaviour of mind from an Eastern philosophical perspective”, by Asoka Karunananda, Kotelawala Defence University, Sri Lanka.
- “Using multi-agent technology for distributed management of cluster of remote sensing satellites”, by Petr Skobelev, Smart Solutions Ltd, Russia.
The other papers were grouped under three different themes:
- Complex systems fundamentals
- Complex systems in business, industry and others
- Multiagents applications
The delegates were offered a lamb BBQ in the WIT Campus during their first lunch break. This helped them to get to know each other in a pleasant environment, resulting in closer collaboration and stronger exchange of information. The weather – which was very kind – helped them to appreciate better the gardens and woodlands in the Campus. They also had the opportunity to see some of the accommodation and research facilities on Campus, and talk with members of staff.
In order to increase further their interaction, the participants were also offered a short excursion to Winchester, a very beautiful city, ancient capital of England. Although Winchester is famous for its unique cathedral, it has many other historical buildings, including the Castle, set in the walls that surrounded the city. The Great Hall is home of the renowned Round Table of the Arthurian myths (although proven not of the same period, it is still a most impressive antique). Winchester has several museums, including some military from the time when it was a garrison town.
The Cathedral, dating from the Norman Period, has been extended with a wide variety of styles, resulting in a most impressive building, rich in history. It is there that many well-known English figures are buried including the renowned King Cnut, reported as the first King of the united realm. It is also in Winchester where Kings and Princes were married, notably Philip II of Spain to the ill-fated Mary Tudor, in a failed attempt for the two countries to become allies.
The delegates had a guided visit to describe the major sites within the Cathedral. The visit was most successful in terms of helping to bring them together and generate a friendly atmosphere, leading to further exchanges.
The International Scientific Advisory Committee (ISAC) of the meeting met over dinner to discuss the conference series and propose ways in which the meeting could be improved. Different themes were suggested together with a subtitle that may better define the objectives of the meeting. The idea of inviting new members to the committee was also discussed and nominations requested. WIT conferences will investigate suitable venues to arrange the next meeting.
Carlos pointed out the association of the conference with the International Journal of Design and Nature, the Honorary Editor of which was Ilya Prigogine. The influence of the Nobel Prize Winner on the general field of complex systems is well known and the Journal continues to attract excellent papers on this topic. It is planned to publish some special issues with the material presented at Complex Systems.
The Conference banquet took place in one of the most impressive venues in the New Forest, Rhinefield House, now a hotel but originally the residence of the Walker-Munro family, who built it on the site of one of the original Lodges in the Forest in 1895. The house was a present from Mrs Walker’s parents when she married a navy officer called Munro. It was built in a style that resembled a Scottish castle and is surrounded by beautiful gardens.
The rooms in the House cover a wide variety of styles, from French and Italian, to Medieval English and even an Arabic room. The most impressive room is the Great Hall whose roof is of the hammer beam style, similar to the one that can be seen in the ancient-hall of the Houses of Parliament, (which is the only remainder of the original building after a XIX century fire). The room is dominated by a massive fireplace, all that is left of the original XVII century Lodge. The unique Alhambra room is decorated in the Mudejar style, typical of Spanish Islamic Heritage. It was a smoking room, a present from the lady of the house to her husband, upon his return from a long tour of duty.
The delegates were shown around the gardens before sitting down to dinner in the Armada room – the name recalling the defeat of the Spanish fleet in the XVI century. Dinner consisted of a selection of dishes made with local produce, accompanied by Italian and Chilean wines. During dinner Carlos explained the history behind Rhinefield House, and George Rzevski expressed his appreciation to all delegates for having attended the meeting and the importance of this conference for the international scientific community.
Closing of the Conference
At the end of the conference, both Carlos and George thanked all participants for contributing to make a success of the conference. Carlos’ final remarks, at the closing of the conference, referred to the publication of papers in special issues of the International Journal of Design and Nature. He commented on the high quality of the presentations and thanked the delegates for making a friendly atmosphere conducive to the exchange of information. He also invited them to come back to the New Forest and, if so, visit again the Wessex Institute campus.