Basser Seminar Series

Modelling complex systems as distributed information-processing systems

Speaker: Professor Mikhail Prokopenko
Centre for Complex Systems, The University of Sydney

When: Wednesday 1 November, 2017, 4-5pm

Where: The University of Sydney, School of IT Building, SIT Lecture Theatre (Room 123), Level 1


Complex systems - which include as power and data grids, communication and transport systems, social networks and ecosystems - evolve and 'self-organise' over time. This can result in both benefits and challenges. Self-organisation is pervasive: individual organisms within a swarm achieve collective coherence out of isolated actions; ecosystems develop spatial structures in order to deal with diminishing resources; and large-scale natural and social processes including bushfires, landslides and disease epidemics feature spontaneous, scale-invariant behaviour. Sometimes self-organisation strengthens the overall system, increasing its resilience in the face of external disturbances, adaptability to new tasks and scalability with respect to new constraints, but in some regimes it can also manifest itself as a crisis. Examples of such crises include cascading power failures, loss of data in sensor and communication networks, traffic disruptions, epidemic outbreaks and ecosystem collapses. Complex systems can also be viewed as distributed information-processing systems. Consciousness emerging from neuronal activity and interactions, cell behaviour resultant from gene regulatory networks and swarming behaviour are all examples of global system behaviour emerging as a result of the local interactions of the individuals (neurons, genes, animals). Can these interactions be seen as a generic computational process? This question shapes the main theme of the talk, linking computation to complexity and criticality.

Speaker's biography

Professor Mikhail Prokopenko is the Director of Complex Systems Research Group (Faculty of Engineering and IT) and the Director of the Centre for Complex Systems at the University of Sydney. He also leads the postgraduate Program in Complex Systems. Mikhail has a strong international reputation in complex self-organising systems and computational intelligence, with over 160 publications, patents, and edited books. He received a PhD in Computer Science (Australia), MA in Economics (USA), and MSc in Applied Mathematics (USSR). Over the last decade, Prof. Prokopenko has co-organised the series of International Workshops on Guided Self-Organization, and was a keynote speaker at several international events. In 2016 Mikhail led team Gliders2016 to World Championship at the 20th International RoboCup competition (SimLeague2D). He is the Chief Editor for Computational Intelligence section of Frontiers Robotics and AI journal, a senior member of IEEE and a fellow of The Royal Society of New South Wales.