Messy systems have no clear boundaries; they are composed of so many natural and/or artificial entities with patterns of interaction so dense that they cannot be understood by inspection and system behaviour cannot be predicted by statistical or qualitative analysis. Obvious examples are real social systems and the Internet. Analysing and designing software to exploit such systems requires a different approach to software engineering and mechanism design. The issue addressed in the MABS-2000 workshop and in this volume is the development of a methodology and technology to identify which techniques hold promise and which cannot possibly lead to useful applications for messy software or social systems.
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