Introduction to systems thinking

[No Text] Introduction to systems thinking Hello. Welcome to this session of … systems dynamics. In this introductory video … about systems thinking we are going to talk about what … is a system, and how systems dynamics … was developed historically, and the main characteristics … of the topic. This is just a conceptual … video, but I’m very … enthusiastic because with this, we kick off the contents of … this course. So, let’s go! What is system thinking? In the simplest terms, system thinking is a mind … frame or world view of reference. We use this mind frame because it explains reality in … ways that other methodologies or world views … cannot address. This worldview has been proven to be particularly … useful when dealing with problems of larger … complexity, with many interacting parts, in a dynamic setting. By dynamic we mean that the values of the parameters and … variables that describe the system are changing … simultaneously, making the tracking of the … system extremely difficult for the human mind. As humans have made progress in the discovery of … the rules that govern natural phenomena, mankind has discovered the richness and complexity of … the world when all the elements come to be … considered together. In this course we will explore this mind frame and the … language that it uses to understand these complex interactions. Interestingly, the same components that … are used to understand man made systems can be used … to understand the relation of different actors in nature, as well as different actors in social interactions. We will also be interested in understanding the behavior … of systems in general, and model them using … computer tools. But first let me tell the stories of two great contributors to … System Dynamics First, Karl Ludwig von Bertalanffy. Bertalanfy was an Austrian biologist known as one of the … founders of general systems theory(GST). This is an interdisciplinary practice that describes … systems with interacting components, applicable to biology, cybernetics and other fields. Bertalanffy proposed that the classical laws of … thermodynamics applied to closed systems, but not necessarily to “open systems” such as living things. His mathematical model of an organism’s growth over time, published in 1934, is still in use today. In 1972 R. Buckminster Fuller was … asked by a committee of French scientists to write a … paper on Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s nomination for … the Nobel Prize. He did so. The nomination went to Oslo, but the committee’s effort … came just too late. Ludwig died before the nomination of him could be … considered by the Nobel authorities. On June 12, 1972: Bertalanffy died of a heart attack. He was buried in Montreal. Systems theory is the interdisciplinary study of systems. A system is a cohesive conglomeration of interrelated … and interdependent parts that is either natural or man-made. Every system is delineated by its spatial and temporal … boundaries, surrounded and influenced … by its environment, described by its structure and … purpose or nature and expressed in its functioning. In terms of its effects, a system can be more than … the sum of its parts if it expresses synergy or … emergent behavior. Changing one part of the system usually affects other … parts and the whole system, with predictable patterns of behavior. For systems that are self-learning and … self-adapting, the positive growth and … adaptation depend upon how well the system is adjusted … with its environment. Some systems function mainly to support other … systems by aiding in the maintenance of the other … system to prevent failure. The goal of systems theory is systematically discovering a … system’s dynamics, constraints, conditions and elucidating principles (purpose, measure, methods, tools, etc.) that can be discerned … and applied to systems at every level of nesting, and and in every field for achieving optimized … equifinality.[1] The systems view is a world-view that is based on … the discipline of SYSTEM INQUIRY. Central to systems inquiry is the concept of SYSTEM. In the most general sense, system means a … configuration of parts connected and joined … together by a web of relationships. The Primer Group defines system as a family of … relationships among the members acting as a whole. Von Bertalanffy defined system as “elements in … standing relationship.” Key concepts Some of the key concepts that you will find in the … literature of systems are the following: System: An organized entity made up … of interrelated and interdependent parts. Boundaries: Barriers that define a system … and distinguish it from other systems in the environment. Homeostasis: The tendency of a system to … be resilient towards external factors and maintain its key … characteristics. Adaptation: The tendency of a … self-adapting system to make the internal changes needed … to protect itself and keep fulfilling its purpose. • Reciprocal Transactions: Circular or cyclical interactions that systems … engage in such that they influence one another. • Feedback Loop: The process by which systems self-correct based … on reactions from other systems in the environment. • Throughput: Rate of energy transfer between the system and its … environment during the time it is functioning. Cybernetics Cybernetics is the study of the communication and … control of regulatory feedback both in living and lifeless … systems (organisms, organizations, machines), and in combinations of those. Its focus is how anything (digital, mechanical or biological) controls its behavior, processes information, reacts to information, and changes or can be changed to better accomplish … those three primary tasks. The terms “systems theory” and “cybernetics” have been widely used as synonyms. Some authors use the term cybernetic systems to denote … a proper subset of the class of general systems, namely those systems that include feedback loops. According to Jackson (2000), von Bertalanffy promoted an … embryonic form of general system theory as early as the … 1920s and 1930s but it was not until the early 1950s it … became more widely known in scientific circles. Threads of cybernetics began in the late 1800s that led … toward the publishing of seminal works (e.g., Wiener’s Cyberneticsin 1948 and von Bertalanffy’s General … Systems Theory in 1968). Cybernetics arose more from engineering fields and … General Systems Theory from biology. If anything it appears that although the two probably … mutually influenced each other, cybernetics had the greater influence. Von Bertalanffy (1969) specifically makes the point … of distinguishing between the areas in noting the influence … of cybernetics: “Systems theory is frequently … identified with cybernetics and control theory. This again is incorrect. Cybernetics as the theory of … control mechanisms in technology and nature is … founded on the concepts of information and feedback, but as part of a general theory of systems;” then reiterates: “the model is of wide … application but should not be identified with ‘systems … theory’ in general”, and that “warning is necessary against its … incautious expansion to fields for which its concepts are not … made.” (17-23). Cybernetics, catastrophe theory, chaos theory and complexity theory have the common goal … to explain complex systems that consist of a large … number of mutually interacting and interrelated … parts in terms of those interactions. Cellular automata (CA), neural networks (NN), artificial intelligence (AI), and artificial life (ALife) are … related fields, but they do not try to … describe general (universal) complex (singular) systems. The best context to compare the different “C”-Theories … about complex systems is historical, which emphasizes different tools and methodologies, from pure mathematics in the beginning to pure computer science now. Since the beginning of chaos theory when Edward Lorenz … accidentally discovered a strange attractor with his … computer, computers have become an … indispensable source of information. One could not imagine the study of complex systems … without the use of computers today. Systems Dynamics System dynamics (SD) is an approach to understanding … the nonlinear behaviour of complex systems over time … using stocks, flows, internal feedback loops, table functions and time delays According to a page in the Social systems design lab of … the Washington University in St. Louis ” System dynamics is a … method for understanding, designing, and managing change. It models the relationships between elements in a … system and how these relationships influence the … behavior of the system over time. For example, how do aspects of culture, livelihood, education, and environment impact the adoption of a new public … policy or prevention or treatment program?” Convenient graphical user interface (GUI) system … dynamics software developed into user friendly versions by … the 1990s and have been applied to diverse systems. System Dynamic models solve the problem of … simultaneity (mutual causation) by updating all … variables in small time increments with positive and … negative feedbacks and time delays structuring the … interactions and control. The best known System Dynamics model is probably … the 1972 The Limits to Growth. This model forecast that exponential growth of … population and capital, with finite resource sources … and sinks and perception delays, would lead to economic collapse during the 21st … century under a wide variety of growth scenarios. System dynamics is an aspect of systems theory as a … method to understand the dynamic behavior of complex systems. The basis of the method is the recognition that the … structure of any system, the many circular, interlocking, sometimes time-delayed … relationships among its components, is often just as important in determining its behavior as … the individual components themselves. Examples are chaos theory and social dynamics. It is also claimed that because there are often … properties-of-the-whole which cannot be found among the … properties-of-the-elements, in some cases the behavior of … the whole cannot be explained in terms of the … behavior of the parts. This is what we call emergent behavior System dynamics was created during the mid-1950s … by Professor Jay Forrester of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1956, Forrester accepted a … professorship in the newly formed MIT Sloan School of Management. His initial goal was to determine how his … background in science and engineering could be brought … to bear, in some useful way, on the core issues that determine the success or … failure of corporations. Forrester’s insights into the common foundations that … underlie engineering, which led to the creation of … system dynamics, were triggered, to a large degree, by his involvement with … managers at General Electric (GE) during the mid-1950s. At that time, the managers at GE were … perplexed because employment at their … appliance plants in Kentucky exhibited a significant … three-year cycle. The business cycle was judged to be an insufficient … explanation for the employment instability. From hand simulations (or calculations) of the … stock-flow-feedback structure of the GE plants, which included the existing corporate decision-making … structure for hiring and layoffs, Forrester was able to show how the instability in GE … employment was due to the internal structure of the firm … and not to an external force such as the business cycle. These hand simulations were the start of the field of system dynamics. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Forrester and a team of graduate students moved the … emerging field of system dynamics from the … hand-simulation stage to the formal computer modeling stage. Richard Bennett created the first system dynamics … computer modeling language called SIMPLE (Simulation of … Industrial Management Problems with Lots of … Equations) in the spring of 1958. In 1959, Phyllis Fox and Alexander … Pugh wrote the first version of DYNAMO (DYNAmic … MOdels), an improved version of … SIMPLE, and the system dynamics … language became the industry standard for over thirty years. Forrester published the first, and still classic, book in the field titled Industrial Dynamics in 1961.[2] From the late 1950s to the late 1960s, system dynamics was applied almost exclusively to … corporate/managerial problems. In 1968, however, an unexpected occurrence caused the field to broaden … beyond corporate modeling. John F. Collins, the former mayor of Boston, was appointed a visiting … professor of Urban Affairs at MIT. The result of the Collins-Forrester … collaboration was a book titled Urban Dynamics. The Urban Dynamics model presented in the book was … the first major non-corporate application of system dynamics.[2] The second major noncorporate application of … system dynamics came shortly after the first. In 1970, Jay Forrester was invited by … the Club of Rome to a meeting in Bern, Switzerland. The Club of Rome is an organization devoted to … solving what its members describe as the “predicament … of mankind” —that is, the global crisis that may appear sometime in the … future, due to the demands being … placed on the Earth’s carrying capacity (its sources … of renewable and nonrenewable resources and … its sinks for the disposal of pollutants) by the world’s … exponentially growing population. At the Bern meeting, Forrester was asked if system … dynamics could be used to address the predicament of mankind. His answer, of course, was that it could. On the plane back from the Bern meeting, Forrester created the first draft of a system dynamics … model of the world’s socioeconomic system. He called this model WORLD1. Upon his return to the United States, Forrester refined WORLD1 in preparation for a visit to MIT … by members of the Club of Rome. Forrester called the refined version of the model WORLD2. Forrester published WORLD2 in a book titled World Dynamics. [No Text]

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