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 book provides the first clear, comprehensive, and accessible account of complex adaptive social systems, by two of the field's leading authorities. Such 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 finalized schedule of the elective can be retrieved here.


The deliverable as published in CANVAS:

Dear students,

The final deliverable is a report about the application of the taught Complex Adaptive Systems theory and applications to a problem of your own choice.

The report should be maximally 15 pages and be a detailed description of what has been done and what has been learned from the Complex Adaptive Systems elective and the application of the taught material to the chosen problem.

Deadline is the offical deadline as set by ID Education.

Hand in by sending per email (or for instance


the report( in pdf format) and the code used to simulate the Complex Adaptive System. In case you did not use NetLogo/SimPy/Simulink please state explicitly what has been used to simulate your model and where this simulation program can be obtained.

F. Delbressine



You can find the rubric for the course here.


M. Rauterberg's introductory lectures, lecture sheets and documentation:

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

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

  3. Bateson G.

  4. Understanding understanding.

  5. Midgley G., Systemic Intervention, 2000

L. Feijs', lecture sheets and documentation:

  1. Slides of lecture on information entropy and complexity InformationEntropy.pdf

  2. Slides of first lecture on cellular automata Cellular automata theory feijs.pdf

  3. Shannon's 1948 paper shannon1948.pdf

  4. Kolmogorov's 1968 paper kolmogorov1968.pdf

  5. Wolfram's 1984 paper wolfram1984.pdf

  6. Link to Troy's Life of Fashion Trends thelifeoffashiontrends

  7. Paper by Lucas Haude "Creating an interaction with cellular automata for science and technology museums" haude_paper.pdf

  8. Reference: Haude, L. "Creating .. museums", Proceedings of The 17th Int. Conf. on Applied Mathematics (Aplimat), Feb 6–8, 2018, Bratislava.
  9. Paper by Loe and Marina on automata for fashion 170420 CellularAutomatonForHoundstoothV8.pdf

  10. Reference: Feijs, L., Toeters, M. (2017). A cellular automaton for pied-de-poule (houndstooth). Bridges 2017 (pp. 403-406).
  11. Slides of oscillators lecture Oscillators2019New

  12. Simulation of quadratic mapping x.4.(x-1) in Excel quadratic.xlsx

1. Paper by Loe and Marina on chaos theory for fashion Bridges2019.pdf

F. Delbressine's, lecture sheets and documentation:

  1. Linear Systems,

  2. PID control,

  3. Physics revisited,

  4. Braitenberg vehicles,

  5. Nature as Inventor, Y. Poelman

  6. Discrete Event Simulation presentation & example code

  7. Continuous Simulation presentation.

  8. NetLogo presentation

  9. NetLogo software download site:,

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

  11. NetLogo 6.0 Quick Guide: NetLogo-6-0-QuickGuide.pdf

  12. NetLogo 4.0.3 Code Snippets: NetlogoCodeSnippets.pdf


  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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