CAMBRIDGE, Mass., July 27, 2007 — Years after it was created at MIT, the field of system dynamics — and its legendary 89-year-old founder, Jay Forrester — will be both celebrated and advanced at an international conference in Boston next week that will feature a world-class range of speakers and presentations, with Forrester delivering the keynote talk on Aug. 2.
Among his many accomplishments, Forrester, who came to MIT in 1939, pioneered the first practical, real-time digital computer, Whirlwind, and, in the process, invented the first practical memory device for computers. But the conference marks Forrester's landmark research and first major articles about system dynamics, a methodology for studying and managing complex feedback systems, such as those regularly found in business and other social systems. Forrester, who became part of the newly formed MIT Sloan School of Management in 1956, believed that complex management systems could be modeled using the same concepts of feedback control that apply to engineered systems.
“Many of Jay's ideas were far ahead of their time,” wrote John Sterman, MIT Sloan Jay Forrester Professor of Management and conference program chairman Sterman in a special anniversary issue System Dynamics Review. “Some still are.” Today, for example, system dynamicists examine why large projects, from ship building to writing software code, are frequently over-run or why attempts to generate and manage development growth so often fail. In his address on Aug. 2, Forrester will reflect on the past and envision the future of system dynamics.
“Science and technology are no longer frontiers; they have receded into the fabric of everyday activity,” Forrester wrote for the anniversary issue of System Dynamics Review. “I believe that we are now embarking on the next great frontier, which will be to explore a much deeper understanding of social and economic behavior.”
The conference, which is being run by the non-profit System Dynamics Society, will take place at the Seaport Hotel. More information, including a schedule, can be found at http://systemdynamics.org/conferences/2007/index.htm.