Systems-within-Systems: A Unifying Paradigm

Wayne Davis, Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

This paper introduces a new paradigm for the design and operation of complex systems. Traditional approaches, including the system-of-systems perspective, attempt to reduce the overall into its fundamental components. Such approaches inherently seek to differentiate, and often isolate, the components. The proposed paradigm seeks a shared mission for all components to exploit recursive design practices. An underlying feature of the proposed recursive designs is containment, where identified components are characterized as a system within another system.

While developing the proposed paradigm, the core system technologies— mechanics, controls and planning—were also unified. This unification was accompanied with an unanticipated unification of time—the past, present and future. In fact, a second temporal axis has been introduced to facilitate the on-line concurrent implementation of planning and control responsibilities. The paradigm discusses the inherent deficiencies of planning in general, and the specific limitations of applying optimization in real-world planning situations. It establishes an insurmountable need for another agent to implement an entity’s plan while refuting the subordinate stature that traditional hierarchical architectures would assign to an implementing agent. Rather, this interdependency establishes the need for expanded interaction among the planner and implementing agent, including the necessity of collaborative planning among the interacting systems.