"Approaching Complexity" Theme

IT Revolutions, Venice, December 17-19, 2008


Complex techno-social systems exhibit self-organization and unpredictability that challenge traditional engineering. This theme welcomes contributions to "design-by-emergence" approaches able to harness such complexity. It is part of the IT Revolutions conference, under the general theme "Mitigating Paradox at the eSociety Tipping Point".

The explosion in size and complexity of ICT systems in all domains of society (as exemplified in the themes of the IT Revolutions conference: healthcare, education, defense, business, energy & environment, etc.) has opened the door to entirely new forms of social organization characterized by a high degree of decentralization. Ubiquitous computing and communication capabilities connect people and infrastructures in unprecedented ways, creating complex techno-social systems based on bottom-up interactions among a myriad of artifacts and humans, via computing hardware and software elements. These systems exhibit self-organization and unpredictability that fundamentally challenge traditional systems engineering—based upon requirement specification and hierarchical, top-down management. In short, decentralization has spontaneously appeared, but traditional organizations are not prepared for it.

The New Deal of the ICT age will be characterized by diverse and specialized eNetworked proactive participants (healthcare providers, patients, professors, teachers, students, politicians, soldiers, producers, users, consumers, etc.). This spontaneous trend has preceded our ability as designers to comprehend and control it, while also oppening new opportunities for exploiting the formidable potential of ICT advances. Beyond blogging, wikis, e-mail and file sharing, there still remains to invent a new generation of collaborative technologies, perhaps distinct between application domains, to exhibit the highly desirable properties of semi-autonomy, homeostasis, dynamic adaptation, and long-term evolution already present in natural complex systems.

Therefore, we need to develop a sense of capability and security in the changing context. Instead of clinging to an inexorably disappearing totalistic control, we should focus on establishing conditions in which the wave of complexity can develop and evolve by endogenous and local control. Future complex ICT engineering should be less about direct design than developmental and evolutionary "meta-design".

At the core of this enterprise lie paradoxical questions: Can autonomy be planned? Can decentralization be controlled? Can evolution be designed? Can we expect specific characteristics from systems that we otherwise want to let free to assemble, and possibly invent, themselves? We welcome contributions to new integrated and multidisciplinary approaches toward the "design-by-emergence" of pervasive computing and communication environments able to address and harness complexity.

Submit a paper to this event

Contributors to this page: Rene Doursat .
Page last modified on Thursday 13 November, 2008 16:38:19 by Rene Doursat.

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