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Browse Prior Art Database

COPING WITH COMPLEXITY

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000127971D
Original Publication Date: 1983-Dec-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Sep-14
Document File: 7 page(s) / 26K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

J.F. Traub: AUTHOR [+4]

Abstract

In a recent talk Bob Lucky stated that the management of complexity is a key problem. As examples of complexity he cited million word programs written by a hundred programmers and the design of chips with tens of thousands of transistors. He pointed out that we will, one day, have a billion transistors on a chip. what are some of the features that make a problem or system complex?

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

COPING WITH COMPLEXITY

J.F. Traub Edwin Howard Armstrong Professor of Computer Science and Professor of Mathematics Columbia University

April 1983

Talk presented at a session entitled "New Directions for the Computer Sciences" at a Symposium on "Computer Culture: The Scientific, Intellectual and Social Impact of the Computer" sponsored by The New York Academy of Sciences, April 5, 1983. To appear in the Proceedings. A common complaint about nodern life is its complexity. I'm sure the word complex brings varied associations to your minds; I'll give you a few of mine:

Designing a jet aircraft

Managing a large organization such as a city, a corporation, a university, or even a country Sending a man to the moon Deciding where to drill for oil

Investing in the stock or commodity markets

Designing and maintaining a national communication system Trying to understand the mind of man

Controlling the national money supply to achieve certain goals Designing a safe nuclear power plant

In a recent talk Bob Lucky stated that the management of complexity is a key problem. As examples of complexity he cited million word programs written by a hundred programmers and the design of chips with tens of thousands of transistors. He pointed out that we will, one day, have a billion transistors on a chip. what are some of the features that make a problem or system complex?

Size

Arranging a schedule for an airline that flies four planes between New York and Washington can be done on the back of an envelope. on the other hand, preparing the schedule for an airline with hundreds of planes and scores of cities is a complex task. Size often leads to complexity.

Arranging a schedule for an airline that flies four planes between New York and Washington can be done on the back of an envelope. on the other hand, preparing the schedule for an airline with hundreds of planes and scores of cities is a complex task. Size often leads to complexity.

Interconnections

if a system can be decomposed into subsystems, then those smaller sub-systems can be independently analyzed. If, on the other hand, a system or problem has many interconnections,

Columbia University Page 1 Dec 31, 1983

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COPING WITH COMPLEXITY

we must tackle it whole. If we jiggle it a bit here there may be major unforseen consequences there.

Limited and Inexact Information

For most systems and problems the available information is limited and inexact. I'll use weather prediction as an example. Thousands of weather stations make measurements at various attitudes. In addition, planes, ships, and satellites also make measurements.

Inevitably these measurements, as all measurements, will be con-taminated with errors. Furthermore, since there are only a certain number of measurements the information is limited. Hence ,a don't know the world-wide weather at any moment.

Why is that significant? If we don't exactly know the world-wide weathe...