“As Stephen Hawking says, this century is the century of complexity, and complexity and its associated technologies and theories of artificial life, agent-based models, self-organization and the science of networks will revolutionize the way science is done,” states Ian Wilkinson of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. Wilkinson is just one of the many speakers, scientists, and researchers taking part in the Complex 07 conference, the biggest-ever gathering of the Asia-Pacific region’s complex-systems scientists.
Complex systems science is touted as the best way to tackle humanity’s biggest challenges. Complex 07 brings together leading researchers who are exploring how advanced computer technologies can be applied to issues ranging from national defence, climate change, air traffic control, and the intricate chaos of brushfires.
Complexity theory is rooted in Chaos theory, and the belief behind complex systems science is that the answer to many of humanity’s largest problems can be found in the world itself. Complex systems scientists study the way nature tackles complex problems and see whether similar approaches can tackle other complex problems. As an example, by studying how birds flock without running into one another, scientists created a model for new breeds of air traffic control systems.
Conference chair Peter Lindsay, who is also the director of the Australian Research Council’s Centre for Complex Systems at the University of Queensland, says Complex 07 will explore how complex systems science is being adopted “from biology to economics.” He and Wilkinson both see the benefit of complex systems as a medium for bringing different areas of investigation together, thereby leading to new levels of understanding.
In regards to climate change, for example, Linsday explains, “You have power engineers looking at the stability of power lines and economists on the other hand looking at supply and demand and how you can manipulate demand at the local level. Now you can put the two models together to work out how to keep the electricity grid working and reduce the overall emissions.”
More than 250 experts from around the Pan-Australian region are expected to attend Complex 07. With more than 30 speakers and 100 submitted papers, the event marks a coming of age for complex systems science as it migrates out of laboratories and into the real world.
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