Complex Systems 2017
The New Forest Complex Systems Conference 2017
23 - 25 May, 2017
The New Forest, UK
The Complex Systems conference 2017 took place in the New Forest National Park in the UK, where the meeting has taken place annually since 2015. It was organised by Prof George Rzevski of the Open University and Prof Carlos A Brebbia of Wessex Institute.
Its continuous success is largely due to the high quality of the papers presented and the friendly atmosphere of the meeting.
During the conference, participants from many different regions of the world and a wide variety of disciplines discussed the new applications required for the solution of complex issues which cannot be resolved by conventional mathematical or software models. A particular area of interest is the use of multi-agent technology and similar distributed approaches, which has achieved credible application results.
The meeting explored complex issues which exhibit some of the following attributes, ie CONNECTIVITY, AUTONOMY, EMERGENCE, NONEQUILIBRIUM, NONLINEAR, SELF-ORGANISATION and CO-EVOLUTION.
Complex Systems encompass a variety of problems, not only in the fields of engineering and science but also in the realm of social and political sciences, the economy, humanities, and are prominent in ecological and environmental problems.
George Rzevski welcomed the delegates and explained the motivation for establishing the conference. He was impressed by the quality of the research carried out at Wessex Institute and concurred with the lack of communication found in large conferences. A smaller meeting – George thought – would provide the best way to increase communication among the participants.
Opening the Conference
Prof Carlos A Brebbia welcomed the audience to the New Forest, the home of the Wessex Institute, and explained some of the attractions of the region. He hoped that the participants would have an occasion to visit some places of interest in the Forest, in addition to the special excursion to Salisbury, which took effect during the afternoon of the second day.
Although many of the participants had already attended previous WIT conferences, others were not fully aware of the Institute’s objectives.
Carlos explained that WIT is an NGO with charitable status dedicated to the dissemination of knowledge. This is achieved through research and development, conferences and training, and publications.
The Institute has developed new computational tools which are used to solve, more efficiently, problems that can be difficult to address by conventional tools. WIT also carries out consulting services for industry, government users and others. At present two areas of expertise in demand are in the field of corrosion engineering and fracture mechanics.
Carlos showed some of the successfully completed projects to give the audience an idea of the results that can be achieved with the WIT tools.
He also referred to the publishing activities of WIT which consist of a series of WIT Transactions and Journals. All papers presented at WIT conferences are now in Open Access format and archived on the Institute site (www.witpress.com/elibrary), as well as other important databases.
Carlos mentioned the importance for the community to launch new Journals in order to focus on new research topics instead of relying only on well-established publications which may not be appropriate for engineering fields.
Finally, Carlos referred to the importance of the well-established WIT Conference programme which brings together people from different backgrounds from all over the world. The meetings foster collaboration and the development of joint projects as well as create international research networks.
Carlos concluded his address by thanking the delegates for their participation and hoping that during the meeting they would have the opportunity of knowing more about the work carried out by the Wessex Institute.
The first keynote address was by Prof George Rzevski on the topic of ‘Building digital ecosystems’.
The main objective of that research - George explained - is to help businesses in changing, building or optimising digital ecosystems to prosper. A digital ecosystem should not be designed to carry out routine tasks but to be able to self-organise. Digital ecosystems should also be able to react to disruptive events, such as shortage of food or water, health service issues and other decisions vital to the wellbeing of societies. Digital Ecosystems are Complex Adaptive Systems.
The key element is connectivity, where one component interacts with thousands of others. The agents ought to be autonomous and emerging properties able to be obtained. The behaviour of these systems is in non-equilibrium, with frequent disruptive events taking place. A system, however, ought to be capable of self-organisation and co-evolving with its environment.
Multi-agent technologies are used to set up these options. Agents ought to communicate with each other and negotiate. The multi-agents ought to concentrate on different clusters which ensures that any instability will not spread from one cluster to another.
Most businesses are rigidly organised. In order to change to an adaptive organisation they need to have a system that can rapidly react to a changing environment. It should also have self-organising clusters which can stop the spread of a disruptive event.
It is a great mistake to increase constrictions and regulations in case of a disruptive event. There ought to be more freedom in situations of crisis. (This is indeed what was wrong during the latest financial crisis.)
It is no use looking for cause and effect in complex systems as everything is changing too quickly. Analyses are not useful in these cases. The whole cause and effect relationship is no longer valid.
George described his research on developing a Digital Ecosystem for Singapore, looking at transport, water networks, port operations and their knowledge economy. The system follows previous work done in Moscow where the conventional delivery service from fixed stage locations has failed.
George’s keynote address was very well received and followed by a lively discussion.
Other invited addresses were:
• “The design process as complex system”, by Robert Barelkowski, West-Pomeranian University of Technology, Poland.
• “Fathoming the future of artificially intelligent robots”, by Brian White, Complexity Are Us, USA.
• “Integrating in-vehicle, vehicle-to-vehicle and intelligent roadway systems”, by Warren Axelrod, Delta Risk LLC, USA.
• “Smart projects: multi-agent solution for aerospace applications”, by Peter Skobelev, Smart Solutions Ltd, Russia.
• “On the formation of modern Mexico State”, by Daniel Santos-Reyes, ICHI Research and Engineering, Mexico.
The Conference covered a wide range of topics in the general fields of:
• Complexity in science
• Complex adaptive business
• Complex adaptive healthcare
• Complexity in transportation systems
The conference offered the delegates many opportunities for interaction and discussion, during coffee and lunch breaks, as well as during the formal sessions. A special roast lamb BBQ was organised in the Ashurst Lodge Campus, with excellent local food and blessed by the best spring weather. The occasion, as usual, helped to cement the links among the delegates.
The ISAC (International Scientific Advisory Committee) meeting took place over dinner at an excellent restaurant, which offered dishes made with regional produce. It has one of the best wine cellars in the UK. Discussions centred on how to improve the conference and attract high quality papers. An aim of the meeting is to increase the number of industrial participants. Several new initiatives were proposed which aim to be investigated further. The Board expressed their satisfaction with the way the conference is progressing and the fact that many delegates keep returning at a higher rate than other meetings.
Another special event for the delegates was an afternoon excursion to Salisbury. This is a medieval cathedral city not far from the New Forest. The City has a wide artistic heritage, with hundreds of buildings listed for their historical and architectural interest. The delegates were offered a guided tour through the old streets and a visit to the Cathedral, which is the tallest medieval structure in Great Britain, and its finest gothic cathedral. An original Magna Carta manuscript, one of only four in the world, dating from 1215 is located in the Chapter House of the Cathedral. Also on display inside the nave is the world’s oldest working clock, dating from 1386. The visit ended with a tour around the close surrounding the Cathedral, which is the setting for an exquisite display of elegant 17th and 18th century houses and the largest cathedral close in Britain.
The Conference dinner took place in Rhinefield House which was a large manor house built on the site of the residence of the Master Keeper, and now is a well-known New Forest Hotel.
The old Master Keeper’s residence was bought at the end of the 19th century by the Walker family from Nottingham and the house built as a wedding gift to their daughter on her marriage to a Navy officer.
The house resembles a neo-gothic castle with a series of large reception rooms. The most unique of them is a great hall with a hammer beam roof resembling the one in Westminster Hall. The hall incorporates a large fireplace, which bears the date 1653 and is the only reminder of the previous Keeper’s Lodge. Of special interest is the Alhambra room, where the conference dinner took place.
This room is inspired by the palace in Granada and is built in Mudejar architectural style. There are beautiful tiles on the wall, together with Arabic inscriptions in the plaster and a series of Onyx columns. The feeling has been described as being shut inside a jewel case.
Delegates enjoyed the food and wines, as well as the possibility of talking to each other in a friendly and relaxing atmosphere.
Rhinefield House is also renowned for its gardens which are now being fully restored after a year of neglect. Of special interest is the now established maze at the open air grass amphitheatre where concerts and other events are frequently held.
Closing the Conference
A panel discussion session took place at the end of the conference on the topics of Complexity versus deterministic mind set – perceiving reality as complex rather than deterministic. The topic, of interest to all participants, guaranteed a lively exchange of comments and discussions.
The Conference was closed reminding the participants that it will be reconvened in 2018 (http://www.wessex.ac.uk/conferences/2018/complex-systems-2018), also in the New Forest. George and Carlos hoped that delegates would be able to participate again. George ended by thanking them all for coming and hoped that the experience was useful.