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Keynote Presentation

“Systems, Complexity and Innovation in the New Economic Model”

Guaning SU
President Emeritus
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

We live in interesting times.
The golden period of classical science, notably after publication of Newton’s Laws, was exciting and exhilarating. We were able finally to make sense of the complicated astronomical observations and reduce the principles explaining it to three simple laws of motion and the inverse square law of gravitation. The powers of science in reducing observations to simple physics principles seem infinite. But then Statistical Mechanics, Thermodynamics and Quantum Physics brought us down to reality with a bump – we could not actually solve all problems in such a deterministic manner reducing the problem to a few fundamental principles.

As we get nearer and nearer to the secrets of Life on Earth with genetics, DNA and sequencing, the promise of reducing Life on Earth to physical principles is strong. And yet, why did evolution take place, creating order out of chaos in the primordial soup, seemingly working against the Second Law of Thermodynamics?

On another dimension, quantitative models of human behaviour such as economics, stock prices, social behaviour and collective action, although possible due to the astronomical explosion of computing power and storage density, defies our best efforts at prediction. Indeed, like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle in Quantum Mechanics, what we are measuring is changed by the act of measurement itself. Academia is full of such issues, whether in judging a professor’s research in quantitative terms or marking schemes of courses with significant group work components.

I will address some of these issues especially those areas relevant to Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management from the point of view of Complexity Science, first pioneered by the academic renegade Santa Fe Institute and now spreading far and wide including in Singapore. Relevance to Business, Management, Politics and Governance will also be explored. The phenomenon of Innovation is particularly worthy of exploration as the driver of progress in Human Society.

About the Speaker
Professor Su Guaning is President Emeritus and Professor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. He graduated from University of Alberta (B.Sc. Eng. 71), Caltech (M.S. 72) and Stanford University (Ph.D., M.S. 84). He was conferred an Honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of Alberta in Jun 2015.

As NTU President 2003 to 2011, he led a quantum leap in research and education capabilities in NTU, establishing new schools, new undergraduate programmes, major research centres and fund raising and alumni functions. He was founding Chairman of the Global Alliance of Technological Universities and developed strong links with China. His current research interests are in signal processing, complex adaptive systems, technology innovation and entrepreneurship.

Professor Su pioneered research in the Ministry of Defence, Singapore and led the initial build-up of electronic warfare capability. He served as Director Defence Science Organisation 1986-1997, Deputy Secretary (Defence) 1998-2001 and founding Chief Executive of the Defence Science and Technology Agency 2000-2002. Prof Su was a founding Board member of the National Science and Technology Board and served as Deputy Chairman from 1998 to 2000.

Professor Su is a President's Scholar, Registered Professional Engineer and Founding Fellow of the Singapore Academy of Engineering. He is Honorary Fellow and Past President of the Institution of Engineers, Singapore and a Fellow of the Singapore Computer Society. He was conferred the Meritorious Service Medal 2011, Public Administration Medal (Gold 1998 and Silver 1989), Long Service Medal 1998 and Public Service Medal 1997 by the President of Singapore; National Science and Technology Medal 2003, Defence Technology Medal (Outstanding Service 2015), the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour 2005 by the President of France and the Friendship Award 2011 by the State Council, People’s Republic of China.