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Taming Complexity
October 4–5, 2011
Washington, D.C.

LEN KLEINROCK PREVIEWS THE CONFERENCE
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LIBRARY SELECTION
Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era

by Amory Lovins


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overview


Topics include:
• Self-reconfiguring systems
• Architectures for complexity
• Huge data sets
• System optimization
• Chaos, messes, and disasters
• Complexity and networks
• Very large software systems
• Complex event processing
• Anomaly detection
• Measurement and performance
• Adaptive behavior

conference overview
One byproduct of our well-engineered systems is their inherent complex nature. Outcomes and consequences are no longer predictable or understandable. What happens when these systems, often designed by systems themselves, surpass our ability to understand how they function? We see that the aggregation of seemingly simple components leads to complex behavior, but we don’t seem to understand enough to tame the resulting complexity.

What is the essence of large-system integration? Adding one piece at a time can give us sub-optimal results, though measures of optimal will be context-dependent. Wicked problems arise when the ramifications of design extend beyond our organizational and technical boundaries, and are further exacerbated by complex interdependencies we can’t see. Managing the human-computer experience within complex systems becomes increasingly difficult when we have incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements and measurements. Security and privacy in complex systems is an additional thorny issue. Can social networks—with their inherently complex sets of relationships—play a role in taming complexity?

When something starts going wrong and systems begin to develop new dynamics, we’ll need new types of warning systems. Will we be able to measure the performance and state of such systems, and if so, what will that tell us? With truly massive data sets, streaming models might be efficacious, but might we be better off deploying more machines and distributing data in parallel?

As we invent and deploy new technology with the goal of making our work and lives easier, we often find just the opposite. Perhaps we should move toward designing systems that achieve goals on their own and build in enough adaptive behavior without telling such systems precisely how to solve our problems.

At this conference, we’ll explore where increasingly complex systems are taking us. What pitfalls will we encounter in the systems upon which we have become so dependent? Most likely, information technology will not, on its own, conquer complexity. To really get a handle on it, we need to understand how humans and nature optimally solve problems.

In dealing with complexity, are there certain laws that we can begin to use? Is there an emerging framework in which we can start to think about these problems at the fundamental level? What rules of thumb have different industries and disciplines used to deal with rapidly failing systems and the design of large systems? We may never be able to conquer complexity, but we can remain hopeful about taming it.

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Partial list of speakers

Dr. LuÍs Bettencourt, Permanent Research Scientist, Los Alamos National Laboratory
Dr. Katy BÖrner, Director, Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center, Indiana University
Dr. John Doyle, Professor, Control and Dynamical Systems, California Institute of Technology
Mr. Amory Lovins, Co-Founder, Chairman, and Chief Scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute
Mr. Peter Menzel, Photojournalist, and Ms. Faith D’Aluisio , Editor and Lead Writer, Material World Books
Mr. Dwight Merriman, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, 10gen
Mr. Steven Nixon, Founder, Steven Nixon Consulting
Dr. Paul Ormerod, Partner, Volterra Partners, and Author, Why Most Things Fail: Evolution, Extinction and Economics
Dr. Alex "Sandy" Pentland, Director, Human Dynamics Laboratory, MIT Media Lab
Dr. William Rand, Director of Research, Center for Complexity in Business, University of Maryland
Mr. Roy Weinstein, President, Micronomics
Dr. Michael Wertheimer, Director of Research, National Security Agency

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Conference Schedule
Monday, October 3: 7:00 PM - Welcome Reception / Dinner (Dinner at 7:30 PM)
Tuesday, October 4: 8:30
AM - Conference Begins
Wednesday, October 5: 4:00
PM - Conference Closes

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