Complex Adaptive Systems

Industrial Design is not just about individuals interacting with isolated devices. People act in social networks via a wide variety of social media and mobile internet platforms and internets of things. People, communities and platforms co-evolve. No single stakeholder has full control over these systems, their evolution or their behavior. Yet it is important that designers participate in, or even lead the design and evolution of these systems, addressing values, feasibility, usability and aesthetics, even before these systems are in operation. The learning objectives are to understand the nature of complex adaptive systems, to know examples and to master tools for analyzing the complexities by simulation


How is it possible to understand such complex systems? Fortunately there is already an exciting new field called Complex Adaptive Systems. The book "Complex Adaptive Systems" by John Miller and Scott Page describes the field. From the cover (quote): This first clear, comprehensive and accessible account of complex adaptive systems = whether political parties, stock markets or ant colonies - present some of the most intriguing theoretical and practical challenges confronting the social sciences (end quote).

In our view, this is not only important for the social sciences, it is even more important for contemporary and future industrial design. Miller and Page show (quote) how to combine ideas from economics, political science, biology, physics and computer science to illuminate topics in organization, adaptation, decentralization and robustness. They also demonstrate how the usual extremes used in modeling can be fruitfully transcended, allowing the investigation of systems composed of moderate numbers of interacting and thoughtful, but not perfect, agents across a variety of important domains (end quote).

In this master course Matthias Rauterberg, Loe Feijs and Frank Delbressine will guide you through this new field


The preliminary schedule of the elective can be retrieved here: .


M. Rauterberg, lecture sheets and documentation:

  1. Introduction to Complex Adaptive Systems: Complex Adaptive Systems.pdf

  2. Lecture sheets: DDM110_CAS intro-1.pdf ,

  3. Bateson G.

  4. Understanding understanding.

F. Delbressine, lecture sheets and documentation:

  1. Linear Systems,

  2. PID control,
  3. Physics revisited,
  4. Braitenberg vehicles,

  5. NetLogo software download site:,

  6. NetLogo programming guide: NetLogo 6.0.1 User Manual- Programming Guide.pdf

L. Feijs, lecture sheets and documentation:


  1. Bateson G., Steps to an Ecology of Mind, Ballantine Books, Ney York, 1972.

  2. Braitenberg V. , Vehicles. Experiments in Synthetic Psychology, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1984.
  3. Foerster von H., Understanding Understanding: Essays on Cybernetics and Cognition, Springer- Verlag, New York, 2003.

  4. Holland J. , Complex Adaptive System, Daedalus, 1992.
  5. Holland J. , Complexity, A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2014.
  6. Miller J.H. , Page S.E. , Complex Adaptive Systems, An Introduction to Computational Models of Social Life, Princeton University Press, 2007.
  7. Vermeer B., Grip on Complexity, How Manageable are Complex Systems?, NWO, The Hague, 2014.

  8. Wilenski U., Rand W., An Introduction to Agent-Based Modelling, The MIT Press, Massachusetts, 2015.
  9. Wolfram S., A New Kind of Science, Wolfram Media, 2002.

  1. Complex Adaptive Systems videos:

  2. Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, Grip on Complexity, How Manageable are Complex Systems?.

  3. Braitenberg vehicles:

  4. Examples of PID control:

  5. NetLogo, agent-based simulation software:

  6. Loe's patent on agent-based media player: US2007050262A1.pdf

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