Journal of Systems Science and Systems Engineering

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 285–305

An approach towards holism in science and engineering


DOI: 10.1007/s11518-010-5141-y

Cite this article as:
Sherwin, J. J. Syst. Sci. Syst. Eng. (2010) 19: 285. doi:10.1007/s11518-010-5141-y


This paper posits the desirability of a shift towards a holistic approach over reductionist approaches in the understanding of complex phenomena encountered in science and engineering. An argument based on set theory is used to analyze three examples that illustrate the shortcomings of the reductionist approach. Using these cases as motivational points, a holistic approach to understand complex phenomena is proposed, whereby the human brain acts as a template to do so. Recognizing the need to maintain the transparency of the analysis provided by reductionism, a promising computational approach is offered by which the brain is used as a template for understanding complex phenomena. Some of the details of implementing this approach are also addressed.


Reductionism holism agent-based modeling linearizations multi-disciplinary optimization complex phenomena understanding Markov-chain vector space hierarchical temporal memories neuroscience-influenced computing 

Copyright information

© Systems Engineering Society of China and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Aerospace EngineeringGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

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