Defining Example: Large Natural Disasters
System: The system is the set of communities and physical infrastructures affected by the natural disaster (both local and remote to the disaster), first responders, and government and private aid organizations, including those involved from the initial event on through reconstruction.
Environment: The system is embedded within the national or international community; this environment supplies “energy” and resources to the system (e.g., funds, raw materials, people), which expand and contract across time.
System of Systems: The system is composed of entities which are themselves systems ranging from individuals, families, neighborhoods, businesses, and local, regional, and national governments to infrastructure systems for the flow of life support such as water, food, sanitation, communication, and power.
Complex: Communication/interaction (and miscommunication, errors) between entities at all scales (individual to national government) and between entities of all types and status (e.g., businesses, industry, utilities, law enforcement, national guard, first responders, self organized groups of affected individuals) will occur. Entity behaviors differ and thresholds for behavioral (state) changes of an entity (passive to active or vice versa) are history dependent (hysteretic). Both heroes and devils, or mass obedience and disobedience can emerge. Such emergent behavior is contingent on the interaction of the all the sub-systems and cannot be predicted.
Adaptive: The behavior of all entities at all scales evolves as a function of external influences, internal interactions, and experience (both general and specific). Experience grows in time over the course of the Disaster and influences action. The physical infrastructures change as they are stressed, repaired, and subsequently improved, and this, in turn, changes the actions of people. Experience from one disaster to the next also changes communication/interaction behaviors, entity actions and decisions, and the response of the surrounding environment that supplies energy and resources.
Aspirations: A robust and resilient system-of-systems in which planning, reengineering, and reinforcement occurs naturally to limit the cost (life, disruption of services, funds, resources, recovery) of large natural disasters. A means of predicting or preventing/attenuating them.
Approaches: Evaluation of actions/decisions (before, during, and after) to rank their benefit, their robustness to variation of fundamentals and in initial/boundary conditions, the identification of critical enablers for their benefit, and design of systemic resiliency. Evaluation would use 1) historical events, 2) parsimonious models of the interdependent CASoS, and 3) systematic variation of parameters. Design of monitoring systems that allow measurement of critical state variables during events and the control of action/reaction. Better weather prediction could help with some weather-related disasters. Technology to prevent disasters would likely be disaster-specific (e.g. one technology for earthquake, another for hurricane).
Attainability: The manifestation of the natural instigator (physical extent, intensity, and type of perturbation) and the state of the system (individuals to systems-of-systems) when the instigator hits (initial condition) are always different and unpredictable. Guided emergence (control) of human organization that is helpful (rather than harmful) may be unique to each situation.