I found it a bit easier to process.
"Limits to Growth―the first book to show the consequences of unchecked growth on a finite planet"
I don't really like the rambling tone of the article which never really addresses it's central premise-questions.
Look, systems thinking is about thinking. Thinking is about how you were trained to think. To become a systems thinker, learn how to think better, how to think differently, how to think critically, and how to think logically. Now self-examine, correct problems, and repeat loop.
For example, the thing many elite schools teach that most others don't is the trivium and quadrivium approach to thinking.
Another trick is less tangible. Find brilliant people and learn from them. Learn what they do wrong, not just what they do right.
Finally, as a sysadmin, if you learn to think in a flowchart about just about any problem you will be fine... but the trick to that is to be specific about what the problem is.
My experience here is if you start with one of the above names (and are a fan of logic), you most likely end up reading all of them. (But maybe it's just me idk?)
However, the formation of systems occurs over time; so the practical art to Systems Management involves understanding the rate of change, flexibility of inter-dependencies, and sustaining momentum.
"The tragedy of the cybernetic revolution, which had two phases, the computer science side and the systems theory side, has been the neglect of the systems theory side of it. We chose marketable gadgets in preference to a deeper understanding of the world we live in."
"Introduction to Cybernetics" is available as a free PDF. (Linked from this page: http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/ASHBBOOK.html )
Cybernetics is formally beyond logic. It deals with circular loops in causality in the most general yet concrete sense.
One way I try to describe it (to an audience like HN readers) is that Information Theory is about making the real world behave like symbols, while Cybernetics is about making symbols behave like the real world.
And "Behavior, Purpose and Teleology" by Rosenblueth, Wiener and Bigelow:
It's interesting because it's about culture and culture is a system of ideas, rituals and behaviours.
We are living in a cybernetic culture right now, so what's next?
That's what we need to understand. What do we want?
> One of the problems when you bring technology into a new area is that it forces you to oversimplify.
It is fortunate that we have thinkers such as this to simplify the world for us.
Should we pine for the united Europe of Rome? Of the Reich?
Was it evil to tear down those cooperative societies?
XERXES: Brought peace.
REG: Oh. Peace? Shut up!
-- Life of Brian
I admit I stopped reading at that point. Bog standard Marxist thought in academic circles? Starting an article supposed to be about systems thinking with a noisy announcement of tribal loyalty? Yawn.
That said, I think the author could argue that by mentioning "progress in race relations" they are disqualifying the Third Reich.
There is a reason that analog computing mattered, and why no one seriously focuses on metaphoric computing (except, you know, as a metaphor for something that isn't computing). I suspect that metaphors are the tools of cargo cults while analogies are the tools used by those that actually understand a system in order to convey it to those that do not.
Perhaps I'm misunderstanding, but are you using some much more restrictive definition of 'metaphor'?
For example, as far as I can see, one can't escape metaphor because they're deeply embedded in the very language you're using right now.
The most basic metaphors are ones that refer to the body or the physical world. Jar  originally refers to a 'screeching sound'. Understand probably from the literal sense to 'stand between' . Compute derives from 'com' (together) + 'putare' (reckon, settle an account) ; the latter root originally comes from Indo-European 'to prune'. Almost all vocabulary is in fact a form of extended metaphor; in fact, it cannot be any other way, because to describe a new thing requires one to compare and contrast it to existing things.
You yourself are making a metaphor when you say that an analogy has to 'at least rhyme' — a metaphor for poetic sound similarity to stand for a sort of logical similarity.
The distinction between an analogy, where one explicitly calls out the comparison ('like', 'as'), and a metaphor, where the relationship is taken implicitly, is much blurrier than it seems. All our language and thinking is saturated with metaphors at every single level, to the point where they seem to be taken for granted and disappear.
IMO, the problem is not metaphors themselves, which are unavoidable; it's picking wrong metaphors (which is really using the wrong language) that lead us astray.
An analogy, or analog, is a much deeper match in that means to transfer the understanding and knowledge of an existing system to a new target system that closely parallels that understanding and knowledge. Analog computing was literally "creating a model of the problem" that closely matched the real problem.
Agreed that metaphors are not inherently bad, but the dependence on metaphors rather than analogies is symptomatic of a lack of depth in understanding when attempting to convey knowledge.
From reading the book, if someone says that "In a complex world we perceive, think, understand and communicate metaphorically.", I get what they mean. It occurs to me that her use of the word "metaphor" follows from such a comprehension.
Are the metaphors actual tools, or more like metaphorical tools?
e.g. the desktop metaphor
This I think is a very salient point. What is missing in the field at the moment to truly advance is a theory of 'agency' or how intelligent systems can be trained to venture out into the world and develop their own models, set their own incentives and continuously interact with their environment and develop their own 'games' from unstructured data rather than optimising towards some fixed goal.
- Introduction to Systems Thinking (https://thesystemsthinker.com/introduction-to-systems-thinki...)
- Tools of a Systems Thinker (https://medium.com/disruptive-design/tools-for-systems-think...)
- The Mythical Leverage Point (https://blog.kumu.io/the-mythical-leverage-point-d582ce4b8b4...)
- Peter Senge Introduction to Systems Thinking (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXdzKBWDraM)
- I Used To Be A Systems Thinker (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ymt_TbNNwE)
- The (Failed) Promised of Systems Thinking (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=614&v=aelqgvFXGi...)
- Systems Practice Mindsets (https://vimeo.com/212281432)
- +Acumen Systems Practice Course (https://www.plusacumen.org/courses/systems-practice)
- Thinking In Systems: A Primer by Donella Meadows (https://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Systems-Donella-H-Meadows/dp...)
- Fifth Discipline Fieldbook (https://www.amazon.com/Fifth-Discipline-Fieldbook-Strategies...)
- Systems Thinking for Social Change (https://www.amazon.com/Systems-Thinking-Social-Change-Conseq...)
Articles on Leading Systems Change:
- Dawn of Systems Leadership (https://ssir.org/articles/entry/the_dawn_of_system_leadershi...)
- Acting and Thinking Systemically (https://thesystemsthinker.com/acting-and-thinking-systemical...)
- Transforming the Systems Movement (https://thesystemsthinker.com/transforming-the-systems-movem...)
Relevant Tools and Websites:
- Kumu (https://kumu.io) - Web-based tool for building interactive system maps.
- The Systems Thinker (https://thesystemsthinker.com/) - Complete library of all "The Systems Thinker" publications over the past 30 years
- Loopy (http://ncase.me/loopy/) - An playground for building interactive systems maps.
(Disclosure: I'm a Developer at Kumu)
He has such chestnuts as: "A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that works."
A complex system designed from scratch never works
and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have
to start over with a working simple system.
Here is an example of a relatable situtational system thinking in the very small:
I havent read much on the theories, but part of my write was also inspired by two books and hence why I am responding to help others. Pragmatic Thinking and Learning by Andy Hunt and The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge helped me with this type of thinking.
A few things key concepts. Organization of related systems and their interaction patterns. But a key, that you are also apart of the system as you interact.
For instance, the causal link of bringing sweet smelling dry erase markers. You could shift the whole system of interview rating based on memory of smell on that sweet expo choco mint as you erase your complex mistakes away.
Or they could think that you're just crazy.
I'd say thinking in systems is more of an art than a rational thing. You have to do it as often as possible to get better at it but there isn't much you really need to know. Sit down, think really hard for 2 minutes, rest a bit and repeat the process as often as necessary.
There's more to both the study of systems and the mindset than "think". Knowledge of a subject is knowledge of differences and distinctions- reductionism doesn't mean you know something, often quite the opposite.
It took many of us a long time to better think about complex systems, especially those systems we grew up as a part of. There are a number of useful mental patterns that have helped me in my limited journey (eg OODA, feedback mechanisms from cybernetics) and it's not clear to me I'd have recognized the concepts were valuable enough to name on my own.
And then I grew more mystified as the article didn't touch on that.
So I suspected that it was just waffle which that wikipedia article addresses:
> [criticised as] ... said to be nothing more than an admonishment to attend to things in a holistic way.
Which I think is actually right. Too high level to be actionable or definable.
Well, focusing a component of the system (software development) while neglecting to consider how that component interacts with the whole system (society and ecology), is exactly the sort of myopic thinking that systems thinking proclaims to remedy.
At work, we sometimes set up a "war-room" during production downtime - again the logic is the same : we need to work with single-minded focus on this one problem and all else is secondary to getting the system up again.
Would you call policing a 'war on crime'? The enforcement of contracts a 'war on fraud'? The collection of taxes a 'war on free-riding'?
The deficiency of 'war' as the correct metaphor here is that war implies much more than simply 'force'; war has a particularly structure, in part:
1. It is a conflict between distinct groups
2. It is the exception and can be distinguished against 'peace'
3. Victory, or defeat, is possible (in ancient times, where warfare was common and vicious, the literal elimination of entire polities was very common)
None of these things are true of the 'war on poverty' or 'war on cancer', for example.
A war does indeed have a structure, but I'd disagree with your list a bit. Your point 1 is correct, but "groups" is a fungible category and we've certainly seen wars that included the attempted destruction of both groups of people and concepts (history, religion, ideology, etc). 2. Unfortunately history argues that peace is the exception rather than war. There are plenty of wars occurring right now in which we have no participation, nevermind those that we do. 3. Plenty of wars ended with no victory or defeat, and it's certainly arguable that in some cases neither was realistically possible.
I specifically left out the War on Cancer because a good portion of it was under the aegis of private parties, not that it much mattered when it came to the failure of results. They originators believed that Cancer was a single entity that one muster all efforts against... they were wrong.
That the wars waged were wrong-headed in both conception and means is pretty obvious, the means simply ensured that the consequences would be much closer to actual war.
This isn't a metaphysical question, this is literally how modern governments are able to exist and operate at scale and how your dollar bills or local equivalent have any value at all.
The biggest chunk of government use or threat of violence is in property rights enforcement. Anything on top of that is mostly peanuts.
For example, if a local government raises property taxes by 5 percentage points in order to get the funds for better schools, there's likely no additional use of force at all. So it's absolutely possible to raise living standards without use of force for all practical purpose.
A reasonable libertarian who worries about use of force (but I'm aware that such people are so rare they may as well not exist) should be in favour of such a policy, because it increases the ratio of "quality of life per use of force".
It is not the linearity of the USE of force but the threat that matters. I support any number of government actions knowing full well that those actions very well can result in the use of force. I understand and accept those consequences as part of my moral duties rather than try and hide from them.
A diminution of force is not the absence of force and you simply can't have a government act without the consequence of enforcing its actions. This isn't "cooperative" since that requires voluntary consent of all parties. I may support any number of government actions but I do not hide behind euphemisms to convince myself that those actions carry with them the very real potential and actual consequence of force.
Gardening is often proposed as an alternative metaphor to the more common metaphors of war and sports.
It's also worth noting that war is necessarily an admission of failure -- failure of all other means to resolve a problem.