Call for Papers:
Complex Engineering Systems

Dan Braha, Ali Minai, Yaneer Bar-Yam

Perseus Books Group

Complex Engineering Systems will be published by Perseus Books Groups. The book is a volume in a series called "New England Complex Systems Institute Series on Complexity" that is organized by the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI). The first of its kind, the book is especially important in that it will bring together the latest research and practice on the relationship between complex systems and large-scale engineering systems.

Description and Purpose of the Book:

Recent advances in science and technology have led to a rapid increase in the complexity of most engineered systems. In many notable cases, this change has been a qualitative one rather than merely one of magnitude. A new class of Complex Engineered Systems (CES) has emerged as a result of technologies such as the Internet, GPS, wireless networking, micro-robotics, MEMS, fiber-optics and nanotechnology. These complex engineered systems are composed of many heterogeneous subsystems and are characterized by observable complex behaviors that emerge as a result of nonlinear spatio-temporal interactions among the subsystems at several levels of organization and abstraction. Examples of such systems include the World-Wide Web, air and ground traffic networks, distributed manufacturing environments, and globally distributed supply networks, as well as new paradigms such as self-organizing sensor networks, self-configuring robots, swarms of autonomous aircraft, smart materials and structures, and self-organizing computers. Understanding, designing, building and controlling such complex systems is going to be a central challenge for engineers in the coming decades.

A fertile source of ideas and methods for CES are natural complex systems such as brains, insect colonies, immune systems, ecosystems, etc., and human systems such as societies, economies and markets. The issues that these systems have evolved to address are precisely the same as those confronted by complex engineered systems today: Scalability, adaptability, self-organization, resilience, robustness, durability, reliability, self-monitoring, self-repair, etc. The existing paradigms of goal-oriented design, centralized control and reductionistic analysis fail completely when faced with systems that have millions of components and billions of interactions distributed over an extended area. It is instructive to note that the most successful complex engineered systems --- the Internet and the World Wide Web --- are self-organizing and have almost no centralized control or planning. The issue is whether this self-organized paradigm can be extended to other systems, and with what consequences.

A primary obstacle to the systematic study of complex engineered systems is the lack of an appropriate technical framework --- an essential terminology, a set of central concepts, and a consensus on important issues. The emerging discipline of complex systems research offers the possibility of such a framework using well-developed concepts such as chaos, fractals, power laws, self-similarity, emergence, self-organization, networks, adaptation, evolution, etc. One advantage of such an approach is to put natural and engineered complex systems within the same discipline, thus allowing a "closing of the loop" whereby the study of natural complex systems leads to better methods for engineered complex systems, while experience with building and manipulating engineered complex systems enhances understanding of how natural complex systems function.

The objective of this book is to demonstrate the potential of complex systems perspectives to understanding and improving the design, implementation, and dynamics of complex engineered systems. The book will consist of an extensive opening chapter that lays out the case for CES and discusses the relevant issues, followed by 10-15 chapters covering specific issues or applications.

Proposed Schedule:

  • Declaration of interest: April 15, 2003
  • First draft due: November 15, 2003
  • Reviews to authors: December 15, 2003
  • Revised papers due to editor: February 15, 2004
  • Expected publication: May, 2004

Abstracts should be submitted for evalulation before preparing full manuscripts. Papers will be refereed.

Submissions should be made electronically, preferably in MS-Word (click here for formatting instructions), to one of the editors with cc to the other two:

Prospective Topics:

This book is oriented toward the exploration of recent advances in Complex Systems as related to Engineering Systems, and the stimulation of further research and application in this area. Papers that represent significant contributions in the following broad range of domains are welcome:

  • Characteristics of Complex Engineered Systems
    • Modularity and industrial evolution,
    • Non-linear and chaotic dynamics of engineered systems
    • Robustness, vulnerability and failure in CES
    • Self-similarity, critical phenomena, and power laws in CES
  • Networks in Complex Engineered Systems:
    • Network dynamics in CES
    • Scale-free and small-world networks
    • Effect of connectivity on CES performance
    • Robustness and vulnerability in networked complex systems
  • CES Paradigms Based on Natural Systems
    • Biomorphic networks (Neural nets, artificial immune systems, etc.)
    • Evolutionary approaches
    • Collective intelligence
    • Amorphous computing
    • Swarm robotics
    • Self-configuring robots
    • Animats/biomorphic robots
    • Self-organized sensor networks
  • CES Paradigms Based on Human Systems
    • Game-theoretic paradigms.
    • Economic paradigms.
    • Social paradigms.
  • Product Design and Development
    • Complexity-related methodologies in product development
    • Cooperative workgroups for collaborative product design
  • Managing Complex Engineered Systems
    • Emergent/self-organized control methods for CES
    • Human-Computer Interactions
    • Managing the risk of complex engineered systems accidents
    • Managing the risk of vulnerability to targeted attack
  • Ethical, Social, Economic and Political Dimensions of CES
    • Accountability and responsibility in self-organized, decentralized systems
    • Dissociation of ownership and control in complex engineered systems
    • Security in networked complex systems
    • Effect of CES paradigms on classical socioeconomic and political models.
    • Resource utilization and costs in complex engineered systems.
    • Potential hazards of autonomous, adaptive complex systems to human society
  • Specific Complex Engineering Systems
    • Ecology of the World Wide Web
    • Collaborating Distributed Micro-satellites
    • Smart Materials and Structures
    • Smart Retailing and Warehousing Environments
    • Intelligent Traffic Networks
    • Tissue Engineering

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