The applications of engineering principles of robustness and resilience have been central to the SFI community’s study of complex adaptive systems. The Social Robustness program of the early 2000s made considerable efforts towards generating a theoretical framework with wide-ranging applications. Equally important to advancing the theoretical and practical understanding of the behavior of complex systems is SFI’s use of concepts from statistical physics such as tipping points, phase transitions, and cascading failures – these have generated new ideas relevant to ecology, biological aging, human degenerative diseases, and assessing the risks of global climate change (and others). And finally, network-based approaches are foundational to our understanding of the behavior of complex systems as well as the mechanisms of their failure and possible regeneration.
Regeneration is another concept of increasing importance to the study of biological systems crossing scales from cells to the planet. Biological systems are under increasing stress from any number of environmental assaults and identifying what adaptive responses are possible is of increasing urgency. To date, however, there have been limited attempts to develop a comprehensive theory that places the concept of regeneration together with robustness and failure in the study of complex adaptive biological systems.