Complexity: Theory and Applications

Complexity: Theory and Applications

Complexity: Theory and Applications

Complexity: Theory and Applications


Nam P. Suh focussed his axiomatic design theories on methods to understand and deal with complexity. Suh is a well-respected designer and researcher in the fields of manufacturing and composite materials. He is best known for his systems that aim to speed up and simplify the process of design for manufacturing. The 'axioms' in axiomatic design refer to a process to help engineers reduce design specifications down to their simplest components, so that the engineers can produce the simplest possible solution to a problem. Complexity, besides being a key area of burgeoning research in disciplines interested in complex systems and chaos theory (like computer science and physics), is a complicating factor in engineering design that many engineers find difficult to overcome. Suh's multidisciplinary exploration of complex systems is meant to eliminate much of the confusion and allow engineers to accommodate complexity within simple, elegant design solutions.


The complexity theory presented in this book is a result of my attempt to apply axiomatic design theory to a variety of problems. Axiomatic design theory provides a systematic means of designing complex systems, but it cannot deal with such questions as: [Why is there so much wasted effort in developing new products?,] [How can we predict and guarantee the long-term behavior of engineered systems?,] [Why do certain things appear to be so complex but actually are not complex at all once we understand them?,] [Why do people think that a product with many parts is complex?,] [Is the complexity in engineering any different from the complexity in natural science or social science?,] [How do we reduce complexity?,] and [What is complexity?]

Everyone—engineers, natural scientists, social scientists, business leaders, artists, and even politicians—deals with [complexity] all the time. Yet, to these basic questions on complexity, we often receive many different answers. [Complexity] appears to have different meanings in each specific field. Sometimes, even colleagues in the same discipline use the word [complexity] to mean different things. This certainly is the case in engineering and science.

[Complexity] has been an intriguing topic to engineers, natural scientists, and social scientists. They have known intuitively that complexity is an important topic. Yet we have not had a general theoretical framework that can provide engineers and scientists with a unified tool to deal with complexity. Many of them have a general idea of what they mean by [complexity] when referring to their own fields, but their understanding is not precise enough to be useful in solving scientific, technological, and social problems.

One of the reasons for the difficulties encountered in the complexity field has been that the word [complex] has a variety of different meanings. In Webster's dictionary (2001 edition), [complex] is defined as: (1) composed of many interconnected parts; compound; composite; (2) characterized by a very complicated or involved arrangement . . .

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