The year 2013 is an important anniversary year. Not only is this Journal 30 years old, but an archetypal infrastructure system', the National Grid, is 80. Here we have a system that not only resembles a system with physical analogues of nodes and links, but also one that very much behaves like a system. In some respects it is closer to an organism than it is to a machine. It tells a fascinating and timely story about evolution and co-evolution, about complexity and emergence, and about how users and technology have become woven into a single entity. It also allows us to try systems concepts developed in other disciplines for size and to contemplate the future role of civil engineering. Systems thinking will mean that society will be looking for small, clever, user-centred interventions which yield disproportionately beneficial effects as much as grand gestures' that sometimes fail to meet them. The Grid is an 80-year-old civil and electrical engineering exemplar whose systemic success is taken for granted.
- electricity grid
- SOCIOTECHNICAL DESIGN