Openness, Diversity, Interaction, Structure, Scale: a bio-Inspired Approach to Computation

ODISSIAC is a consortium of researchers interested in tackling the problem of designing robust complex computational and engineering systems, by taking inspiration from biology. ODISSIAC's aims are: (1) to develop more powerful and more realistic mathematical and computational models of biological systems; (2) to use these new biological models to inspire novel computational frameworks and algorithms that exploit the biological complexity; (3) to develop the individual results into an integrated model, abstracting out commonalities, highlighting essential differences, and developing generic design principles and algorithms for engineering robust artefacts

current members

Susan Stepney, Jim Austin, David Halliday, Andy Tyrrell, Peter Young (York), Xin Yao (Birmingham), Alan Murray, David Willshaw (Edinburgh), Andy Hone, Jon Timmis (Kent), Steve Furber (Manchester), Rob Smith (UWE), Stefan Wermter (Sunderland), Andrew Anderson, Peter Bentley, Robin Callard (UCL), David Broomhead, Douglas Kell (UMIST), Brian Bell (BAE Systems Sowerby), Steve Smith (LANL)

The 'ODISS' questions

The consortium has identified key areas thought to affect complex behaviour in general, and robustness in particular. ODISSIAC-compliant projects are designed to investigate these questions, and to focus, refine, quantify, and review them, in order to tease out general concepts that can be used to build an integrated computational theory of robust complexity.

Openness: We are interested in open computational systems: those that exhibit continual evolution, continual growth, continual addition of resources. How much openness is necessary? How is openness controlled by structure and interaction? How is system unity and coherence maintained in the presence of openness?
Diversity (heterogeneity) is present in all complex biological systems, and occurs in their structure, behaviour, and interactions. How much diversity is necessary within a level of a structure? Between levels? What does it cost? How does it combat fragility? When can we instead talk of an average component?
Interaction: Components interact with their environment and with each other. What are the features of interaction within structural levels? Between levels? What is the balance between computation and communication?
Structure: Biological systems have structure on a variety of levels, yet the levels are not crisply delineated. Are the levels we discern artefacts of our modelling framework? How can we recognise levels? When is a hierarchy an adequate structural model? How does structure affect interaction? What are the relationships between physical structures and information structures? What is the relationship with specialisation of function? And with localisation of function?
Scale: Biological systems have a vast scale, a vast number of components. When and how does more become different? What are the critical points and phase transitions? How small can a system be, and still be emergent? When is a system too big? How important is multi-scale modelling? What are the relationships between scale and diversity?
Generic questions additionally apply to each ODISS question area X: What is the role of X within a system? What is the balance between X and not-X at the peak of complexity? How and when does X emerge? How does X evolve? How does physical embodiment affect X? How can we exploit X?

The ODISS conceptual framework

ODISSIAC-compliant projects

An ODISSIAC-compliant project is designed to investigate, focus, refine, quantify, and review the ODISS questions, and critique and populate the ODISS conceptual framework as part of its research goals, and to make its results readily available to the consortium for use in other ODISSIAC projects.

If you wish to join the ODISSIAC consortium, or register one of your projects as ODISSIAC-compliant for inclusion on this web page, please email Susan Stepney, and put the following banner on your project page:

XXXX is an ODISSIAC-compliant project

HTML source:

     <B><I>XXXX</I></B> is an 
     <B><I><A HREF="http://www.cs.york.ac.uk/nature/odissiac/">ODISSIAC-compliant</A></I></B>