muchen 牧辰

Week 2 Quiz

Updated 2019-05-17

Question 1

Consider the relationships between a city’s transportation system and human health. Which of the following has NOT been shown to be a feedback loop between these two systems?

A walkable transportation system improves community mental health and an improved level of mental health within a community increases advocacy for a walkable transportation system.

Question 2

In 2008, 75% of the United States corn crop was used to feed cows, chickens, and other livestock. But, because of a 2009 change in US government policy aimed at increasing the production of renewable energy sources (in this case, corn-based ethanol), about 41% of the 2009 US corn crop was used to produce ethanol. This increased demand for corn (due to its use as both livestock feed AND feedstock for ethanol production) led to a doubling of corn prices.

Using your skills as a “systems thinker”, identify a LIKELY UNINTENDED and direct consequence of the 2009 change in US government policy aimed at increasing the production of renewable energy sources.

Livestock farmers pay larger shares of their incomes to corn feed suppliers, thereby having less money to pay-down their debts, and many eventually go out of business.

Question 3

Consider a set of nested circles, and imagine that each circle represents a sub-system within a techno-socio system. Within this techno-socio system, where is engineering work most likely to occur.?

Within the inner-most sub-system (represented by the smallest diameter circle)

Question 4

The controls on an Airbus 380 airplane are complicated AND complex.

False, where complex is in the context of systems thinking.

Question 5

For engineers, one of the biggest challenges raised by sustainability is the need to translate broad sustainability goals into detailed engineering actions. Concept mapping is a tool that can help the practicing engineer tackle this challenge with logic and structure.

The first step in creating a concept map is to pose a “focus question” that relates to the domain of knowledge you wish to organize. What are the three remaining steps that lead to the creation of a concept map?

  1. Create a ranked listing of the top relevant key concepts.
  2. Draft a preliminary concept map.
  3. Establish the interconnects between concepts.

Question 6

Jordan is a country in the Middle East classified by the World Bank as an “upper middle income” country. Like many in this region of the world, it suffers from a lack of water.

Below is a PRELIMINARY concept map generated from the following focus question: “What should be considered in successfully managing Jordan’s water problem?”

Please describe 5 cross-links that could be added to this concept map. Your description of each cross-link should include the first concept, a linking word or phrase, and the second concept.

  • …by reducing costs which increases demand for water.
  • …which would impact society via decrease in perceived happiness.
  • …via education by raising awareness to come up with new technologies.
  • …which would impact society via decrease in sanitation
  • …local species can increase water usage

Question 7

A feedback loop connects different sections in a concept map.


Question 8

Are humans fundamental elements within the urban ecology?


Question 9

An example of systems thinking is:

Observing relationships between things.

Question 10

Which of the following phrases describe a complex system?

  • System evolves over time
  • The system has large number of elements with many interactions between them

Question 11

Which of the following are the characteristics of a COMPLEX system?

The emergence of patterns in the absence of a global controller

Question 12

Which of the following items should NOT be categorized as a system?

  • 5 rocks resting on a table
  • A plastic straw and a sheet of glass
  • A handful of toothpicks

Question 13

Site C is a hydroelectric dam proposed for the Peace River in northern B.C.. Construction began on the dam in the summer of 2015, but had been controversial for several years before the provincial government consented to its construction. More information on the project and its controversy are found at these two websites:

This large engineering project encapsulates several techno-social issues, and is an example of where systems thinking can help understand the situation.

To practice organizing your thoughts around this project, try constructing a concept map:

Start with the following simple and constrained question: “What is the sustainability context of the Site C project?”

Here is a ranked list (from the most general to the most specific) of concepts to put into the map - oh, wait - the list is far too long for this quick question. (The project is so darned complex!) Just create a map using about 20 concepts. Try to add cross-links!

Question 14

Why is systems theory of interest to civil engineers?

There exists complexity of large systems that cannot be broken down using reductionism. Complexity that affects a much larger scope.

Question 15

When we put on our “reductionist” hat, we might wonder why a tree produces so many millions of seeds over its lifetime when, typically, only one or two trees will grow from those seeds. How would a systems thinker explain this phenomenon?

The reproductive cycle of trees are adaptive. Since there is a low rate of survival from seeds, the trees that are still alive have evolved to produce millions of seeds.

Question 16

Consider the relationships between the transportation system within a city and human health. What are four feedback loops that are evident?

  1. :small_red_triangle: walking ⇒ :small_red_triangle: health ⇒ :small_red_triangle: built environment for walking ⇒ :small_red_triangle: walking
  2. :small_red_triangle: walking ⇒ :small_red_triangle: health ⇒ :small_red_triangle: better walking performance ⇒ :small_red_triangle: walking
  3. :small_red_triangle: health ⇒ :small_red_triangle: perception of built environment ⇒ :small_red_triangle: walking ⇒ :small_red_triangle: health
  4. :small_red_triangle: walkability ⇒ :small_red_triangle: walking :small_red_triangle: built environment for walking ⇒ :small_red_triangle: walkability

Question 17

What are the key characteristics of a concept map

  • Examples
  • Concept + linking words
  • Cross-links

Question 18

Traditional engineering activities often take place at the core of _?

Techno-socio systems

Question 19

What are three common properties of complex systems?

  1. Complex collective behavior
  2. Information processing
  3. Adaptive

Question 20

Describe ONE example of the adaptive cycle.

Housing market/bubble grows, bursts, and installation of regulations.

Question 21

Causal loop diagrams consist of many arrows, where each arrow connects to variables.

What is always associated with each arrow?

+/- to indicate parity of impact.

Question 22

What is emergent behavior?

Lots of dumb little things make up a complex large system with lots of complex and unpredictable behavior.