Systems thinking and its relation to design.
A system can be thought of as a transformer that converts inputs to outputs. Some examples include:
We can write this “mathematically” as: $O = S(I)$
O are the outputs,
I are the inputs, and
S is the system that does the transformation.
Different engineering tasks are indicated by which of the three variables are unknown.
$O = x(I)$
$O = S(x)$
$x = S(I)$
“Adaptive systems are composed of different heterogeneous parts or entities that interact and perform actions favouring the emergence of global desired behavior. In this type of systems entities might join or leave without disturbing the collective, and the system should self-organize and continue performing their goals. Furthermore, entities must self-evolve and self-improve by learning from their interactions with the environment.” [BG14]
Generally, this definition takes in societies, biomes, and organizations as well as the usual complex artificial systems.
The problems in the work - and presumably in the field of complex adaptive systems (CAS) - are:
Adaptive systems ought to be designed bottom-up [BG14].
Superorganisms (which [BG14] model as CASs), like bee colonies, can reconfigure themselves (a property of CASs), but their elements are static over their lifespans. The individual bee doesn't really change much at all over it's life, even though the colony can change dramatically.
So, it is not necessary for the CAS elements to change for the CAS itself to change.
[BG14] offers only a very superficial treatment of natural systems. I disagree strongly with the paper's assertions about the similarities between natural and artificial systems. See notes in hardcopy for details.