Date of Award

Fall 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Management & Systems Engineering

Committee Director

Andres Sousa-Poza

Committee Member

Jose J. Padilla

Committee Member

Patrick T. Hester


Engineered systems are designed to satisfy specific needs and produce explainable/predictable results. But despite this intent, engineered systems don’t always do what they are designed to do once they are implemented. Some engineered systems produce properties and behaviors that are not clearly explainable or predictable by the properties of their components. This is a problem recognized in government and private sectors as having broad ranging financial and security consequences. It is also the essence of the emergence phenomena. A review of the literature reveals two significant gaps in the current body of knowledge on emergence as it pertains to engineered systems: 1) no conceptual model that reconciles conflicting aspects of emergence; and 2) no explanation of system factors and their relationships that affect the occurrence of emergence. The gaps are addressed in this dissertation through research using a methodology that incorporates rationalist inductive methods with modeling & simulation frameworks. Where other research and models of emergence focus on entity or agent behavior; the research in this dissertation takes place from a systems perspective. The focus is on system level behaviors and system factors as they pertain to the occurrence of emergent effects. Generally accepted thermodynamic principles and axioms for chemical reactions are used to develop scientific analogies for factors in engineered systems. A theory is derived consisting of six factors that are determinants in a mathematical model of a tipping point at which emergent effects will occur in engineered systems: 1) interoperability; 2) concentration of components; 3) component degrees of freedom; 4) variety of system regulators; 5) rate of information received vs transmitted by the system; and 6) relative amount of information received by the system vs a threshold for change in the system configuration. The theory and its implications are explored in simulation experiments. Other products and contributions of the research include: a) an ontology of emergence concepts; b) a unifying definition of emergence; and c) a system dynamics model of emergence in engineered systems.