Seminar 1: A COMPLEX organisation for complex systems and models

Carbon Emissions and Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy – 03/10/2016

Dr. Nick Winder [Source: LinkedIn]

Presented by Dr. Nick Winder – Newcastle University, COMPLEX Project Coordinator

The Seminar:

COMPLEX has released 70 peer reviewed papers, with their final paper to be released in the next 5-6 months, alongside 3 volumes of collected scientific papers, with 2 volumes having already been released.

Instead of a seminar about reducing carbon emissions however, attendees were given a presentation on the many facets of systems and models used in scientific research both at COMPLEX and in general.

Systems are present in all facets of existence. One such system is Hollig’s Resilience Cycle of adaptive change, which while not to be taken as word, is a useful tool for thought. It demonstrates the phases of destruction and reconstruction in an ecosystem.

Graphic representation of the Cycle of Adaptive Change [Source: Noah Radford]
However, should a cycle end in a different ‘place’ from when it started, the resilience of the system can decline, exemplified by the 2008 economic crisis, where various business decisions caused deviations from economic systems, leading to the crisis.

As a result of the crisis, COMPLEX scientists were instructed to design, modelling infrastructures both as a basis for carbon and economic management.

Dr. Wilder described that alongside morphology and physiology, systematics is one of the 3 components of biology, and are important in modelling.

An example of this is that whilst humans are influenced by laws and legality, the system is flipped when humans utilise their power to change laws and take control, altering models of human behaviour.

A meeting of the COMPLEX organisation, 21/01/2016

The final point made by Dr. Wilder was that ultimately all models become defunct, as the parameters and variables which contribute to models are always changing, thus models should have a “best by date” after which they should be archived for reference.

My Opinions:

I was surprised to find myself taking in and enjoying Dr. Wilder’s opinions in this seminar, as I usually do not fare well with the concepts of models and systematics in such great depth.

Having little experience with these subjects, the concepts shared by Dr. Winder were fairly new to me.

As such my viewpoint has swayed to be fairly in-line with his within reasonable doubt.

Points made which I found particularly interested include:

  • All models are destined to become defunct due to changing parameters
  • System flips occur when control is transferred
  • System variations can have huge consequences

Thoughts on how this affected my career choices:

I have very mixed opinions on how this seminar has affected my career choices.

Whilst I was intrigued by the notions of how systems affect everything, and all models ultimately become defunct as a result of a changing world, and would be interested in involving designing and analysing such systems in my future career, my personal dislike of the mathematics involved with such designs could prove to be stressful.

As such I will keep my options open for involving system dynamics and modelling in my future career.

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