Complexity in the Context of Engineering

  • Erik W. Aslaksen


In the first part of this book we looked at the system concept; its basic nature as a mode of description, its use and meaning as a linguistic item, and its basis in the way the mind works. Above all, you hopefully gained a clear understanding of what we called the systems approach; the application of the system concept for the purpose of handling complexity. The second part was concerned with engineering, a subject you would know well, but we wanted to discuss some features of the profession that are sometimes overlooked, such as its long and successful tradition; the very substantial Body of Knowledge, its central objective of creating objects that, through their operation, provide required services to society, and that attaining this objective includes all activities which such creation and operation require.


Engineering Project System Concept Service Requirement Complex Adaptive System Technology Readiness Level 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Weaver, W.: There is a large literature on the subject of complexity, for example. Science and Complexity 36, 536–544 (1948); Flood, R. L., Carson, E. R.: Dealing with complexity: An introduction to the theory and application of systems science, 2nd edn. Plenum Press, New York (1993); Sheard, S.A., Mostashari, A.: A Complexity Typology for Systems Engineering. In: Proc. 20th Int’l Symposium of INCOSE, Chicago, Illinois (2010)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Miller, G.A.: The Magical Number Seven, Plus of Minus Two: Some limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information. The Psychological Review 63, 81–97 (1956); available online at, References to subsequent papers can be found at, CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Senge, P.M.: The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization. Currency Doubleday, New York (1990)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Aslaksen, E.W.: System Thermodynamics: A Model Illustrating Complexity Emerging from Simplicity. Systems Engineering 7(3) (2004)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    The central role of humans in creating complexity is discussed in Kline, S., Foundations of Multidisciplinary Thinking. Stanford University Press (1995)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    There is a great deal of activity taking place in the area of adaptive systems and, perhaps in particular, in what is termed complex adaptive systems or CAS (although there is no definite boundary between the two). Besides the ubiquitous Wikipedia, a starting point might be the UCLA Adaptive Systems Laboratory,, or the Adaptive Systems Research Group at the university of Hertfordshire, A textbook that addresses computational models of social systems (which are a focal point of CAS) is Miller, J.H., Page, S.E.: Complex Adaptive Systems. Princeton University Press (2007)
  7. 7.
    Three road tunnel projects – Cross City Tunnel and Lane Cove Tunnel in Sydney, and the Clem 7 tunnel in Brisbane – have had initial patronage of only 30-40 % of that estimated,
  8. 8.
    Warfield, J.N.: An Introduction to Systems Science. World Scientific Publishing (2006)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Complexity, risk, and uncertainty are bound together like the three corners of a triangle, and this triangle is itself an inseparable aspect of any human endeavour, with the relative importance shifting around in the triangle depending on the particular situation. Giving references to such a wide and divers topic is not very useful (Google “Complexity and Risk” and get about 40 million hits). ISO 31000:2009. Risk management – Principles and guidelines, is the international standard, and most engineering companies would have their own approaches to this topic. Quite a good little Excel-based tool for engineering projects is that developed by Public Works and Government Services Canada, PWGSC Project Complexity and Risk Assessment (PCRA) Tool and Manual,
  10. 10.
    Technology maturity, also called technology readiness level, has been particularly important to the military and to the aerospace industry, as major users of advanced technology, and both the US DoD and NASA have well-developed and documented approaches to this issue (as do other defence departments)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Gumbooya Pty Ltd.Allambie HeightsAustralia

Personalised recommendations