Design and Control of Self-organizing Systems
PhD Dissertation presented by
May 2nd, 2007
Complex systems are usually difficult to design and control. There are
several particular methods for coping with complexity, but there is no
general approach to build complex systems. In this thesis I propose a
methodology to aid engineers in the design and control of complex
systems. This is based on the description of systems as
self-organizing. Starting from the agent metaphor, the
methodology proposes a conceptual framework and a series of steps to
follow to find proper mechanisms that will promote elements to find
solutions by actively interacting among themselves. The main premise of
the methodology claims that reducing the “friction”
of interactions between elements of a system will
result in a higher “satisfaction” of the system,
i.e. better performance.
A general introduction to complex thinking is given, since
designing self-organizing systems requires a non-classical thought,
while practical notions of complexity and self-organization are put
forward. To illustrate the methodology, I present three case studies.
Self-organizing traffic light controllers are proposed and studied with
multi-agent simulations, outperforming traditional methods. Methods for
improving communication within self-organizing bureaucracies are
advanced, introducing a simple computational model to illustrate the
benefits of self-organization. In the last case study, requirements for
self-organizing artifacts in an ambient intelligence scenario are
discussed. Philosophical implications of the conceptual framework are
also put forward.
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location] Any comment/suggestion/feedback would be more than
Most of the contents of the thesis are the outcome of my work
on self-organizing systems.
The VUB made this press
release right after my defense, which led to a wide coverage in Belgian and Dutch
newspapers, websites, radio, and TV. This was mainly on Chapter 5 of my thesis
("Self-organizing Traffic Lights"), which includes work I did together
with Seung Bae Cools.
On the Brussels's Wetstraat, which we simulated with self-organizing traffic lights.
© Herman Ricour