Engineering adapts to a more connected world

Transdisciplinary systems engineering incorporates human and social sciences as well as traditional systems engineering methods to design today's complex systems.

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Systems thinking offers a refreshing alternative to the reductionism so common in science, focusing on the entirety of a complex system and how the parts within that system interrelate. Systems engineering requires engineers to apply this type of thinking to design complex systems, using sensing, modeling, and talking about the real world.

 Systems engineers have traditionally used math and science to solve thorny problems, but that’s not enough, Azad Madni, who directs the systems architecting and engineering program at the University of Southern California writes in Transdisciplinary Systems Engineering: Exploiting Convergence in a Hyper-Connected World, a new professional book from Springer. In an age of autonomous systems, the Internet of Things, and interconnected systems of systems, solving difficult problems means incorporating methods from a wide range of disciplines, including computer science, social science, human studies, and systems design, as well as virtual reality and interactive storytelling.

The new approach to engineering breaks down boundaries between engineering disciplines, and it can generate societal benefits by addressing the 14 “grand challenges for engineering” that the U.S. National Academy of Engineering has laid out, Madni argues, since the grand challenges for health, sustainability and other areas are all complex-systems problems.

Source: Madni, Azad. Transdisciplinary Systems Engineering: Exploiting Convergence in a Hyper-Connected World. New York: Springer, 2018.

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