News Details | 12-Feb-2009

NTU to host Singapore’s first interdisciplinary conference on complexity- a novel theory which, potentially, may be used to solve just about everything

Top scientists across disciplines and boundaries are coming together to discuss the significance of complexity theory and who knows, they might just find solutions to the pressing and complex issues of climate change, flu epidemics and even the current financial crisis that is causing such a gloom over the world's global economies.

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is hosting Singapore’s first interdisciplinary conference on complexity - Adaptation, Order and Emergence. A Tribute to John Holland from 12 to 13 February 2009. Jointly organised with Santa Fe Institute (SFI) in United States, and Institute Para Limes in Europe, institutes centred on multidisciplinary scientific research, the conference celebrates the achievements of John Holland, the father of Genetic Algorithms and a major contributor to complexity theory, on the occasion of his 80th birthday.

Mr Peter Ho, Head of Civil Service, Permanent Secretary (Special Duties), Prime Minister’s Office and Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will be the Guest-of-Honour at the opening session on Thursday, 12 February 2009, at the Nanyang Executive Centre, NTU.

The two-day conference will see a total of seven discussion sessions with 13 high level speakers from Singapore, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Germany and the Netherlands, coming together to discuss the contributions of John Holland in complexity theory.

Eminent academics and top scientists in the field of complexity studies will be presenting at the conference, including:

• Prof John Holland, University of Michigan and SFI External Professor
• Dr Murray Gell-Mann, Nobel Laureate and SFI Distinguished Professor
• Dr Walter Fontana, Harvard University Medical School and SFI External Professor
• Dr Derek Smith, University of Cambridge

The discussion topics include computer security and human immune systems, current revolution in economics, climate change and harvesting, and the evolution of infectious disease such as influenza.

This is the first time that such a conference, involving these two major scientific think-tank set-ups, has been organised outside Europe or North America, and we are particularly pleased that Singapore and NTU have been selected to host this event.

Together with NTU’s Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS), the think-tanks will discuss and envisage how interdisciplinary research can be shaped, and why such an interdisciplinary approach is important to push forward the frontier of science.

“The conference marks the first time such an august gathering of think-tanks is held in Singapore. This is a milestone for NTU, building on our role as Singapore’s science and technology university. It is a natural extension of our strengths in science and technology to solve the complex mega-problems facing mankind.

We hope this conference will be remembered as the start of a long collaboration between three organisations across three continents: the Santa Fe Institute in United States, the Institute Para Limes in Europe, and NTU in Singapore, Asia”, says Dr Su Guaning, President, NTU.

The Complexity Theory is a novel and challenging interdisciplinary science that offers a new way of describing how simple parts, by acting according to a simple set of rules and reacting to each other and their environment/surrounding, form complex wholes. The theory can be applied not only in mathematics or computing, but in everything including finance, national security, medicine, environment, and even humanities where issues are complex by nature, and require a thorough understanding of other various components and disciplines.

Adds Dr Su, “If NTU is to live up to its potential, solving the biggest problems in society through science and technology, NTU must move in the direction of understanding and shaping complex systems.”

“As one of the founding fathers of Institute Para Limes, I share their spirit of having a community of scholars that assemble and exchange views in an open, questioning environment freed from the interfaces of disciplines to develop new methods of science. Being a science and technological university, we aim to model this culture and build a cross-discipline research community, where researchers can share their thoughts and expertise and through such interactions, make greater impact and advancement in science,” says Prof Bertil Andersson, Provost, NTU.

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