Systems Aikido - A Novel Approach to Managing Natural Systems
Workshop on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems
The potential of new technologies which emulate or exploit the unique properties of living systems is widely lauded. Such technologies however, create new engineering challenges which must be addressed before they can become broadly utilised (see for example, Braha et al. (2006); Bedau et al. (2010); Penn (2008) ). Additionally, many pressing challenges for society today are inherently concerned with gaining a better ability to understand and manage interacting living or life-like systems upon
... hich we rely. Well-documented examples include climate change, agricultural sustainability, city dynamics, demographic change and chronic infections. Problems in all these areas demand a better ability to manage complex biological systems than is currently available. Conventional approaches to working with biological systems are, for the most part, brute force, attempting to effect control in an input and effort intensive manner and are often insufficient when dealing with the inherent non-linearity and complexity of living systems. Biological systems, by their very nature, are dynamic, adaptive and resilient and require management tools that interact with dynamic processes rather than inert artifacts. Our novel engineering approach which aims to exploit rather than fight those properties, presents a more efficient and robust alternative. Its essence is what I will call systems aikido, the basic principle of aikido being to interact with the momentum of an attacker and redirect it with minimal energy expenditure, using the opponents energy rather than ones own. In more conventional terms, this translates to a philosophy of equilibrium engineering, manipulating systems own self-organisation and evolution so that the evolutionarily or dynamically stable state corresponds to a function which we require.