Last April, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYU President John Sexton announced the formation of the Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP), an applied science research institute led by NYU and NYU-Poly in partnership with academic institutions, global companies and New York City government agencies. CUSP is focused on the grand technical, intellectual, engineering, academic, and human challenges posed by a rapidly urbanizing world. Several weeks ago, I was appointed executive-in-residence at CUSP by its Director, Steve Koonin.
Urban systems are the quintessential example of complex sociotechnical systems, the emerging field studying systems that combine powerful and ubiquitous digital technologies with the people and organizations they are transforming. Such systems exhibit a level of complexity that, until recently, has often been beyond our ability to understand and control. Not only do we have to deal with the complexities associated with large scale IT infrastructures, but with the even more complex issues involved in human and organizational behaviors.
This emerging field aims to go beyond the analysis of cities and similar sociotechnical systems. It aims to be prescriptive in nature, applying its findings to help us design better performing systems and organizations, as is the case with other engineering and management disciplines. It is multidisciplinary in nature, and should enable us to address a particular domain, - e.g., transportation, energy, finance, - by bringing together a number of different methodologies, including: systems-oriented techniques like optimization, stochastic systems, systems simulation and systems dynamics; social sciences, management and planning; and engineering capabilities focusing on design, development, testing and operations.