THE origins of THE systems approach

CSL4D

Tracing the tracks of C. West Churchman

Last month I reread (and blogged) Churchman’s ‘The Systems Approach’ (1968) and was surprised to see that between the lines it contained practically the whole of the dialectical systems approach (the systems approach) as it finally took shape in 1971 (The design of inquiring systems) and 1979 (Enemies of the systems approach). In ‘The Systems Approach’ Churchman describes in fact how the dialectical systems approach emerged from the scientific systems approach (the “systems approach”) and operations research, something he had been working on very successfully from 1941 onward and the 1950s in particular, culminating in his ‘Introduction to Operations Research’ (IOR, Wiley, 1957; co-written by Russ Ackoff and Leonard Arnoff, one of the big guys behind Ernst & Young). Interestingly and speaking in a general sense, many of the ideas of ‘The Systems Approach’ of 1968 can be traced back in…

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Luhmann’s systems theory

CSL4D

Modern society [1] Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998) was a German sociologist who developed a general systems theory of modern society. The American social systems theorist Talcott Parsons (1902-1979) was a major influence – for the idea of social systems -, but so were the Chileans Humberto Maturana (1928-2021) and his student Francisco Varela (1946-2001) – for the idea of autopoiesis. Steffen Roth (1976) is a very active Luhmann scholar. According to Luhmann modern society evolved from the 16th to 18th century by differentiating largely independent function systems such as law, politics, science, economy, religion, and media. The function systems were not so much human designs as globally emerging patterns of social differentiation in a historically evolving environment, which to a large extent was shaped by those same emerging function systems. ‘Social systems theory does not describe reality as it “essentially” is, but as what it has actually become – and it…

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The dynamics of transitions in socio-technical systems: A multi-level analysis of the transition pathway from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles (1860–1930) – Geels (2006)

The dynamics of transitions in socio-technical systems: A multi-level analysis of the transition pathway from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles (1860–1930)Dr. Ir. F. W. Geels

The dynamics of transitions in socio-technical systems: A multi-level analysis of the transition pathway from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles (1860–1930): Technology Analysis & Strategic Management: Vol 17, No 4

Twitter thread on a new book claiming that reductionism can explain everything

Emergence as the conversion of information: a unifying theory | Varley and Hoel (2022)

Is reduction always a good scientific strategy? The existence of the special sciences above physics suggests not. Previous research has shown that dimensionality reduction (macroscales) can increase the dependency between elements of a system (a phenomenon called ‘causal emergence’). Here, we provide an umbrella mathematical framework for emergence based on information conversion. We show evidence that coarse-graining can convert information from one ‘type’ to another. We demonstrate this using the well-understood mutual information measure applied to Boolean networks. Using partial information decomposition, the mutual information can be decomposed into redundant, unique and synergistic information atoms. Then by introducing a novel measure of the synergy bias of a given decomposition, we are able to show that the synergy component of a Boolean network’s mutual information can increase at macroscales. This can occur even when there is no difference in the total mutual information between a macroscale and its underlying microscale, proving information conversion. We relate this broad framework to previous work, compare it to other theories, and argue it complexifies any notion of universal reduction in the sciences, since such reduction would likely lead to a loss of synergistic information in scientific models.

This article is part of the theme issue ‘Emergent phenomena in complex physical and socio-technical systems: from cells to societies’.

Emergence as the conversion of information: a unifying theoryThomas F. Varley and Erik HoelPublished:23 May 2022

Emergence as the conversion of information: a unifying theory | Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences

34C3- Reflections on the Hacker Ethos // Chaos Engineering

34C3- Reflections on the Hacker Ethos // Chaos Engineering

January 2018m Eirini Malliaraki

Aug 10

“Scepticism does not mean the successive doubting, item by item, of all opinions or of all the pathways that accede to knowledge. It is holding the subjective position that one can know nothing…. Scepticism is something that we no longer know. Scepticism is an ethic. Scepticism is a mode of sustaining man in life, which implies a position so difficult, so heroic, that we can no longer even imagine it — the way of desire.” -Lacan, 1977I spent the last 4 days celebrating hacker culture at the Chaos Communication Congress in Leipzig. The 34C3 is an annual conference organised by the hacking collective Chaos Computer Club. It features a variety of lectures and workshops on technical and political issues related to security, privacy, open source technologies and freedom. The community consists of all people of the web who share the common vision for an open and free technological society: trolls, programmers, activists, artists, philosophers, engineers and every virtual creature in-between. In this post, I’d like to talk about my experience and my interpretation of the hacker ethos.

34C3- Reflections on the Hacker Ethos // Chaos Engineering

(With cybernetics, complexity, and chaos)

Carlos E. Perez on Twitter: “Why is top-down causation so problematic for many? Is it a consequence of their lifelong bias towards substance metaphysics?” / Twitter

Why is top-down causation so problematic for many? Is it a consequence of their lifelong bias towards substance metaphysics?

(2) Carlos E. Perez on Twitter: “Why is top-down causation so problematic for many? Is it a consequence of their lifelong bias towards substance metaphysics?” / Twitter

See also

https://stream.syscoi.com/2022/05/28/roche-human-biochemical-pathways/

The golden age of complexity science books

Petter Holme

Here is a list of complexity science books in a popular science style from when the hype was the biggest—from 1988 and a decade further*—and some very brief comments. Several of them are available at archive.org, as linked below. I’m pretty sure I forgot several. If so, I’ll add them later.

* I’m no longer the film buff I used to be, but this reminds me of the golden age of Hong Kong police action films which most fans agree, with surprisingly little discussion, was from 1984 to 1993. (And, yes, John Woo’sHard Boiledis the crown jewel of the genre.)

Covers of some of the books in this post.

HR Pagels, 1988.The Dreams of Reason: The Computer and the Rise of the Sciences of Complexity. Simon and Schuster, New York.

We’ll kick off with maybe the most remarkable of all these books (and the most interesting…

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Information theory: A foundation for complexity science

Complexity Digest

Amos Golan and John Harte

PNAS 119 (33) e2119089119

Modeling and inference are central to most areas of science and especially to evolving and complex systems. Critically, the information we have is often uncertain and insufficient, resulting in an underdetermined inference problem; multiple inferences, models, and theories are consistent with available information. Information theory (in particular, the maximum information entropy formalism) provides a way to deal with such complexity. It has been applied to numerous problems, within and across many disciplines, over the last few decades. In this perspective, we review the historical development of this procedure, provide an overview of the many applications of maximum entropy and its extensions to complex systems, and discuss in more detail some recent advances in constructing comprehensive theory based on this inference procedure. We also discuss efforts at the frontier of information-theoretic inference: application to complex dynamic systems with time-varying constraints, such as…

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Video: “An Overview of Systems Lineages and Implications for Research and Practice“, Deborah Hammond, ISSS meeting in Boulder, Colorado 2016

Linked from David Ing’s piece just shared,

2016 recording of a lecture by Debora Hammond on “An Overview of Systems Lineages and Implications for Research and Practice“, given a the ISSS meeting in Boulder, Colorado

Systems Thinking in Practice – Debora Hammond PhD on Vimeo

Genealogy of Systems Thinking | Debora Hammond | 2002

In brief. David Ing.

In the history of science of systems thinking, Debora Hammond related the backgrounds and connections of the founder of the Society for General Systems Research, that is now the International Society for the Systems Sciences.

Boulding (1956) plays a large role in framing two orientations towards “general systems theory”.

Kenneth Boulding used to distinguish between what he called ‘special’ general systems theory and ‘general’ general systems theory, the first oriented primarily around mathematical modeling and the second incorporating a more philosophical consideration of the ethical dimensions of systems. From my own perspective there are three primary orientations within the systems community. Each of the original founders reflects one or more of these orientations, with slightly different emphasis.

(1) Theoretical/Rational—Formal Models, Quantitative Analysis
(2) Applied/Empirical/Utilitarian—Interdisciplinary Problem Solving
(3) Normative—Humanistic, Anti-mechanistic [p. 426]

These three orientations reflect the motivations of why individuals might be interested in diving into a science…

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The Visual Cliff: Eleanor Gibson & the Origins of Affordance

David Ing surface this, saying:

The cybernetics tradition has been described as outmoded by the “perceptual ecology” of J.J. Gibson with affordances, says Erica Robles Anderson (NYU) and Scott Ferguson (U. South Florida).

Cybernetics has long been narrated as the paradigm that shaped human-computer interactions. Perceptual ecology reveals another path, equally foundational but ontologically distinct. Perceptual ecology is not concerned with signals, feedback loops, or uncertainty. It theorizes a sensory-rich, ever-changing world inhabited by animate perceivers. The terrain is a substance. The ground is a surface primordially differentiated from the sky at the horizon. The atmosphere is an immersive, boundless medium. Animate perceivers do not receive bits of information through discrete channels. Instead, they register the constant flux of light on surface as an “ambient optical array.” Persistent sensory information is called “invariance” and it corresponds to the “solid angles” in a shifting world.

“The Visual Cliff: Eleanor Gibson and the Origins of Affordance” | Erica Robles Anderson & Scott Ferguson | April 2022 at https://moneyontheleft.org/2022/04/19/the-visual-cliff-eleanor-gibson-the-origins-of-affordance/

Money on the Left

By Erica Robles Anderson & Scott Ferguson

Originally presented at Hidden Histories: Gender in Design, Design History Society Seminar, April 14, 2022.

Part I: TED Talks and Teapots

In a 2003 TED Talk titled “Three Ways Design Makes You Happy,” Donald Norman announced that “The new me is beauty.” Norman – a professor, design firm principal, and the first Vice President of User Experience at Apple – ranks among the most influential figures in the field of user experience design. Yet above all, he is associated with the concept of “affordance,” an invented term now widely employed to refer to the forms and features of any useful thing.

Norman brokered the term from psychology to design in his 1988 book The Psychology of Everyday Things. Citing J.J. Gibson’s 1979 book The Ecological Theory of Perception as his source, he offered this definition: “The affordances of the environment are…

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Hypotheses Concerning Living Systems | James Grier Miller – Coevolving Innovations (David Ing)

Hypotheses Concerning Living Systems | James Grier Miller August 3, 2022 daviding

Hypotheses Concerning Living Systems | James Grier Miller – Coevolving Innovations

Two-sided form, differentiation and second-order observation in Escher’s artworks and Calvino’s stories | Appignanesi (2018)

Two-sided form, differentiation and second-order observation in Escher’s artworks and Calvino’s stories Article informationLaura Appignanesi

(99+) Kybernetes Two-sided form, differentiation and second-order observation in Escher’s artworks and Calvino’s stories Article information | Laura Appignanesi – Academia.edu

A General Theory of Living Systems | James Grier Miller – Coevolving Innovations

A General Theory of Living Systems | James Grier Miller August 2, 2022 daviding

A General Theory of Living Systems | James Grier Miller – Coevolving Innovations