A General Methodology for Designing Self-Organizing Systems

Our technologies complexify our environments. Thus, new technologies need to deal with more and more complexity. Several efforts have been made to deal with this complexity using the concept of self-organization. However, in order to promote its use and understanding, we must first have a pragmatic understanding of complexity and self-organization. This paper presents a conceptual framework for speaking about self-organizing systems. The aim is to provide a methodology useful for designing and controlling systems developed to solve complex problems. First, practical notions of complexity and self-organization are given. Then, starting from the agent metaphor, a conceptual framework is presented. This provides formal ways of speaking about “satisfaction” of elements and systems. The main premise of the methodology claims that reducing the “friction” or “interference” of interactions between elements of a system will result in a higher “satisfaction” of the system, i.e. better performance. The methodology discusses different ways in which this can be achieved. A case study on self-organizing traffic lights illustrates the ideas presented in the paper.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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