Systems view in engineering research

Aarne Mämmelä (Corresponding author), Jukka Riekki

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter or book articleScientificpeer-review


During the last 50 years, the world population has increased by over 110%, when sustainable development would have permitted only a 25% increase. This is clear evidence that global problems are complex, and we need a holistic system view to solve them. We present a tutorial survey on system view in engineering research to facilitate using these ideas in other disciplines, specifically in the topical efforts to build systems that tackle sustainable development challenges. A system is a set of parts and their relationships. The core idea is to build smart systems that optimize resource usage equitably. We present the incommensurable basic resources used by a system and methods to measure its efficiency. We also present the general principles used in smart systems to achieve efficient operation, including control, feedback, optimization and decision making, hierarchy, and degree of centralization. We identify the tragedy of the commons as the main obstacle for sustainable development as it causes overuse of common and free resources. We discuss some open system-level problems and present ideas on applying systems thinking to solve complex problems. Our major conclusion is the need to use subsidiarity combining weak centralized, hierarchical control and relative autonomy to solve the tragedy of the commons.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTransdisciplinarity
EditorsNima Rezaei
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-94651-7
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-94650-0
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2022
MoE publication typeA3 Part of a book or another research book

Publication series

SeriesIntegrated Science


  • systems thinking
  • smart world vision
  • sustainability
  • feedback
  • optimization
  • decision making
  • hierarchy
  • degree of centralization
  • subsidiarity
  • tragedy of the commons
  • basic resources
  • efficiency


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