Recently I put together a book proposal, with the intention of exploring how has the field of systems science has evolved in the last fifty years and the following list of emerging fields reflects the general directions that I identified:
• Systems Practice
• Participatory Systems Design
• Self-Organizing Systems
• Second Order Cybernetics
• Systems Biology
• Ecology & Sustainability
• Complexity Studies
The first three of these are the ones I see as being most well represented in ISSS. Systems practice is reflected in the work of such influential systems thinkers as Russell Ackoff, C. West Churchman, Peter Checkland, and Mike Jackson, all of whom have worked with organizations to bring about change through more collaborative processes. Closely related is the kind of work that Bela Banathy
and many of his students have been doing in participatory systems design.
These are the areas that have been most interesting to me throughout my association with ISSS, and they are part of the much larger category of self-organizing systems – exploring the processes of self-organization in a variety of complex systems, but especially complex human socio-technical systems. An important contribution in this endeavor has been the emergence and development of second order cybernetics, which focuses not only on understanding feedback processes in physical systems, but exploring
the processes of self-reflective feedback and learning in living systems.
Replaced/Superseded by document(s)
|File||MIME type||Size (KB)||Language||Download|
The question I ask in the title, subtitled in recognition of our Mexican hosts, pertains to both the broadly defined field of systems thinking in general and to the ISSS in particular. Specifically, I will explore what systems thinking might have to contribute to the challenges facing humanity at this juncture in our evolution, as well as the role that ISSS might play in fostering more systemic approaches in education, business, technology, and government.
At an even broader level, in order to provide a context for these questions, it is important to consider where the systems that condition our lives are themselves headed. There are many indications that the current state of the world is highly unstable – whether one considers ecological issues, such as the loss of biodiversity and climate change, or sociopolitical issues, such as the increasing disparity in wealth, heightened tensions between nations, or the threat of nuclear proliferation. In what ways might the various traditions that comprise the “systems approach” contribute to resolving the increasing polarization between individuals, belief systems, and living conditions in different parts of the world?
Even within the broad umbrella of systems thinking, there seems to be a growing divide between the “two cultures” (i.e. science and the humanities) that C.P. Snow (1959) identified nearly a half century ago. One of the primary goals for which the ISSS was founded was to foster the unity of knowledge, which is perhaps what makes it unique among the many systems-oriented institutions that have emerged in the interim. How might we most effectively pursue this quest and what might it mean in the context
of our times?