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Fractals Offer a Better Way to Manage Complex Systems

Mon, 11/12/2012 - 3:15pm
Paulo Adler

It's doubtful that many of the people who are powered to their destinations by a global positioning system (GPS) will stop to think that they are beneficiaries of the U.S. Department of Defense program that invented this technology in 1973. While few have the time or the inclination to think about it, it's a fact that many technologies and conveniences taken for granted were born of cutting-edge, often classified, programs years ago. More and more, technologies that were once reserved for our military or space program are becoming part of our work and play on an unprecedented scale. As this innovation curve continues to expand, what is past is truly prologue—with a few important wrinkles since the 1970s.

One important difference is that it no longer takes 20 years or more for applications to jump from the laboratory to the commercial shelf. The acceleration of the development and widespread availability of new technologies continues to increase exponentially. Another wrinkle is the fact that many of these new advances come from the private sector directly, rather than from laboratories buried in the basements of government buildings. Such is the case with the fractal system.

A fractal is an object found in advanced geometry that is "recursive" in that it repeats itself in patterns, infinitely. These objects have formed the basis for computer programming that allows two lines of code to perform tasks, potentially forever. While these concepts in the abstract may be best reserved for conversations between mathematicians at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the reality is these formulas will very soon be fundamentally changing how we manage information and organizations globally.

While the internal workings of fractal systems are complex, their applications are both widespread and simple. Fractal systems are already in place to manage industrial supply chains and enterprises in Brazil, and will soon be implemented to manage the massive infrastructure build-out to support the upcoming FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games in that country. The beauty of such systems is they can be specifically applied to any system or organization that manages information and resources.

Today, many governments and businesses manage their information in a completely or partially static manner. Databases consist of scanned documents, images, or elements which cannot communicate. This offers users little more than an electronic version of a paper library. In many ways, fractal systems intuitively comprehend objects in the same way human beings do. However, unlike humans, they are powered by the recursive algorithm; they are also infinitely repeating and continually searching for connections between elements. This makes fractal systems both "smart" and dynamic.

These systems also allow for an unlimited number of users to input data via their mobile devices and upload it securely to a cloud or remote server. This means that operators can continually capture and input data remotely. It also means that information inputted, and the connections made by the "smart" functions of the system, are instantly available in real time. Managers can telescope seamlessly from a crack in a runway or a faulty piece of merchandise to the entire enterprise. Real-time access to data allows them to quickly make better decisions and apprise others instantly with complete accuracy, affording the most senior manager the same "ground truth" experienced by any operative in the field at the time they experience it.

Now that the power of fractal systems are making headlines in the U.S. there are a number uses that immediately come to the fore. The national and state air transport systems in the U.S., which are undergoing large scale modernization, can be powered and managed by fractal systems. Likewise, large businesses are now looking at the system to provide it with a highly valuable way to manage inventory and resources on a scale and at a level of efficiency never seen before. The federal government can also employ these solutions to manage epidemics or disasters.

Just as the fractal formula is infinite, so too are the potential uses for its application in businesses and governments of all sizes. All that remains is which sectors and businesses will be the first adopters of this revolutionary new capability in North America and our global economy.

Dr. Paulo Adler, holds a PhD in knowledge theory - Epistemology and Logic, with degrees in Physics and Philosophy. He serves as a Professor at Federal University of Tocantins in Tocantins, Brazil, and as an Executive of Paradigma Corporation.

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