Chapter 1

Engineering Large-scale Complex Systems 1

1.1. Introduction

The terms “systems science”, “systems of systems” and “systems engineering” have, for decades, been excluded from use in the field of “hard” sciences due to their “engineering” connotations. These gaps have been filled by the domains of control engineering and the theory of dynamical systems, apparently more “noble” due to their use of equations and theorems derived from applied mathematics. These terms have recently resurfaced to a great deal of media attention in light of recent events: the 2008 economic crisis and subsequent attempts to escape from the crisis, attempts to achieve stability in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the crisis provoked by the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud.

It is, moreover, interesting – even entertaining – to see how pseudo-specialist media publications, in the form of specialist editions produced by wide-distribution media or successful books by amateur economists, have made the notion of systems more fashionable in the context of the economic crisis. They insist on the heterogeneity of components, their relationships and interactions, and the complexity of these interactions in both temporal and spatial terms. Moving beyond this essential notion, the whole approach of systemics has become fashionable, with general favor accorded to a holistic approach, moving simultaneously from global to local and from specific to general aspects, to take account of all feedback loops at different levels ...

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