Design interventions, prediction and science in the sustainable transition of large, complex systems,

Dewberry, Emma and Johnson, Jeffrey (2010). Design interventions, prediction and science in the sustainable transition of large, complex systems,. In: The 2nd International Conference on Design Engineering and Science (ICDES2010), 17-19 Nov, Tokyo.



The way that human beings live and consume the natural and environmental resources of the planet are not sustainable. Sustainability involves changes in individual beliefs, expectations, values and behaviours at the microlevel, changes in policy at the macrolevel of governments, and changes in the design of objects, social organisations and structures at the mesolevels. Design for sustainability has a big challenge: we need a ninety percent gain in energy and material efficiencies over the next thirty years. Bottom-up and top-down design and policy interventions are needed at all levels. These multilevel dynamics interact in ways not understood by conventional social and natural science: human beings and their physical environment form a bewilderingly complex multilevel system of systems of systems. The science of complex systems must, necessarily, conduct experiments through policy: scientists do not have the mandate or the money to perform large interventionist experiments. Policy can be construed as designing the future. Thus complex systems are entangled in both policy and design. We conclude that (i) the design professions impact on the community at all levels, and that 'good? design at any level is relative to design at all other levels, and the emergent design of the whole, (ii) design, complex systems science and policy must all work together to create a sustainable future, and (iii) policy and complex systems science must progress through a designerly way of thinking to achieve sustainable design coherently applied at all levels in the complex multilevel system of humankind living on planet earth in the decades, centuries and millennia of the future. This view puts design and complexity science at the centre of policy for sustainability.

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