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Systems and Models. Complexity, Dynamics, Evolution, Sustainability [Paperback]

Hartmut Bossel

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Book Description

26 April 2007
A multitude of complex systems and actors pursuing their own agenda shape the dynamics of our world. Better understanding of their actions and interactions is crucial, and can be achieved by a profound knowledge of systems and their properties, and their representation in models allowing simulation of probable behavior. Drawing on his extensive research and teaching experience in modeling and simulation of a wide range of systems - from engineering to social systems and ecosystems - the author presents the fundamental concepts and approaches for understanding and modeling the complex systems shaping the dynamics of our world. The book applies state space analysis and system dynamics to deal with the dynamic processes of "causal systems", discusses information processing approaches for modeling decision processes of "actors" and "agents", and uses aspects of the coevolutionary development of systems in their environment to deal with normative orientation, ethics, and evaluation of policies and long-term development. The concepts are applied in particular to the issue of sustainable development of human society in an evolving world. The book is complemented by a survey of system topics and of models from many fields, and by an extensive bibliography on the many systems-related subjects covered. Hartmut Bossel is Professor Emeritus of environmental systems analysis. He taught for many years at the University of California in Santa Barbara and the University of Kassel, Germany, where he was director of the Center for Environmental Systems Research until his retirement. He holds an engineering degree from the Technical University of Darmstadt, and a Ph.D. degree from the University of California at Berkeley. With a background in engineering, systems science, and mathematical modeling, he has led many research projects and future studies in different countries, developing computer simulation models and decision support systems in the areas of energy supply policy, global dynamics, orientation of behavior, agricultural policy, and forest dynamics and management. He has written numerous books on modeling and simulation of dynamic systems, social change and future paths, and has published widely in the scientific literature in several fields. Bossel is author of a System Zoo containing over one hundred simulation models of diverse systems.

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Systems and Models. Complexity, Dynamics, Evolution, Sustainability + System Zoo 3 Simulation Models. Economy, Society, Development + System Zoo 2 Simulation Models. Climate, Ecosystems, Resources
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A 'Missing Link' in the System Dynamics Literature 4 Jan 2011
By G. Reichert - Published on Amazon.com
While Bossel's book deals with systems and modelling in general it is primarily focussed on system dynamics that is deterministic, aggregated and continuous modeling using stocks and flows connected by information feedback. Now, there are many good books available on system dynamics modeling (albeit not TOO many) - the most eminent one being the seminal work by John Sterman (Business Dynamics for a Complex World)- why bother buying or at least reading this one?

I believe this books fits very neatly into the system dynamics library and should not be missing in any serious collection for the following reasons:

1. While Sterman and others give very broad (and lengthy...) introductions in modeling Bossels gives a very concise overview about the different approaches in modeling which I found very helpful to better see where system dynamics fits into the spectrum.

2. Although I am aware of the 'social systems' view of system dynamics in many texts Bossels does not quite deny his engineering background in giving a very concise but also technical introduction with many links to physical and other technological/ecological systems. That might scare some MBAs (no offense meant) and other 'social scientists' but it makes for clarity and precision that is sometimes lost - for example in Sterman's lengthy elaborations and in his footnotes.

3. Where others only provide footnotes and literature recommendations Bossels provides one of the most useful and readable presentation of the mathematics (linear systems theory) and also touches relevant aspects of control theory. This serves as a welcome repetition for (lost or vague) knowledge but might also serve as introduction on its own. It greatly enhances the understanding of what is vaguely meant be 'structure gives rise to behavior' in other SD-texts. Let's face it, you may of course leave out the maths in order to not deter the modeler and the practitioners, but in the end it is maths that brings in clarity and understanding. Bossel's text in this aspect is certainly unique.

4. Very precisely Bossel notes that once you have created a 'useful and trustworthy' model of a system with input -> system -> output (I-S-O) there are three elementary questions to discuss: What Input is needed to achieve a given output given the system at hand (I?) - What Output will be generated by given Input given the system at hand (O?) - And given input and output how should the system-structure be modified (S?) In discussing these questions Bossel also provides his orientor - theory which is an abstract concept for guiding any kind of 'viable system'. This is a great addition and makes the book a very 'systemic' reading well up to all the other 'soft' systems thinking texts out there.

5. Next to this book there are three accompanying books by Bossel (Systems Zoo 1 - 3) which greatly add to the value of the book. They provide for hands on examples and offer a great variety of well documented models from physics (including diffusion models and thermodynamics) to economics. This greatly increases the use of this book and also makes for a great modeling library.

All in all, for the reasons given, this is indeed a unique text that should not be missing in any (system dynamics) modeler's collection. It makes for a great addition to John Sterman's 'SD-Bible'.
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Way Economics Should Be Developed 15 Dec 2009
By gary - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
After having spent $$$$ on "standard" economics textbooks
and being totally frustrated by the unrealistic assumptions
that the "establishment" economists have been making, the
technique of "system dynamics" has made me happily hopefull.
The basic idea is to model systems as sets of ordinary differential
equations (duh!).
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