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Complexity and Robustness

Engineering theories of controls, communications and computing have matured in recent decades, facilitating the creation of systems of bewildering complexity, but relying on technology and mathematics that are fragmented into narrow technical disciplines. All involve theories of robustness, including feedback control of uncertain systems, error-correcting codes, software verification, and high-confidence algorithms. But the lack of a unified framework for verification of the robustness of complex networks makes our critical infrastructures increasingly vulnerable to cascading and catastrophic failures initiated by small perturbations due to errors or malicious attack. At the same time, the popular mainstream scientific literature has been filled with specious theories of complex systems that have further muddied what is an intrinsically multidisciplinary dialog. It is now clear that complexity is so universally driven by robustness in biology, ecology, technology, and social systems and are so intertwined that they must be treated in a unified way. Fortunately, there has been dramatic recent progress in developing a unified mathematical theory of robust complex systems, with applications to classical problems in turbulence and multiscale physics, as well as new challenges in network protocols, hybrid system verification, biological regulatory networks, ecosystems, and financial markets. This talk will sketch the key themes and their implications in a few selected applications.
Type of Seminar:
Public Seminar
Prof. John C. Doyle
Control and Dynamical Systems, Bioengineering, and Electrical Engineering / California Institute of Technology
Jul 29, 2002   17:15

ETH-Zentrum, Gloriastrasse 35, 8006 Zurich, Building ETZ, Room E8
Contact Person:

Prof. P. Parrilo
No downloadable files available.
Biographical Sketch:
John C. Doyle is Professor of Control and Dynamical Systems, Bioengineering, and Electrical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology. He has a BS and MS in EE, from MIT, 1977 and a PhD in mathematics, UC-Berkeley, 1984. His current research interests are in theoretical foundations for complex networks, primarily in engineering and biology, and the interplay between robustness, feedback, control, dynamical systems, computation, communications, and statistical physics. Additional interests include theoretical foundations of multiscale physics and financial markets. Prize papers include the IEEE Baker (also ranked in the top 10 "most important'" papers world-wide in pure and applied mathematics from 1981-1993), the IEEE AC Transactions Axelby (twice), and the AACC Schuck. Individual awards include the IEEE Centennial Outstanding Young Engineer, the IEEE Hickernell, the American Automatic Control Council (AACC) Eckman, and the Bernard Friedman. He has held national and world records and championships in various sports.