By Charles Francois
In my opinion General Systems Theory does not really exist as a unified theory. Claims to the contrary seem to harm our credibility.
"Systems Science(s)" is also a dubious trademark. Everyone understands it and defines it in her/his own way. Nobody seems to be able to offer a coherant and all embracing view of what it is (with the possible exception of Jean Louis Lemoigne in France, whose ideas would deserve to be considered in an international symposium)'
Curiously enough, this disarray somewhat reminds me of the famous Indian tale about the elephant and the five blind men...which ironically has precisely been proposed as a metaphor for the need of a systemic vision.
INTRODUCTION TO GENERAL SYSTEMS
Those which imply multiple and shifting interrelations and interactions
between numerous elements - eventually at various levels of complexity.
- The clinical problem in medicine
- The economic changes as viewed from various viewpoints and levels
(personal, business. national. global - - finance, production,
productivity, employment, consumption, etc.)
- Individual and social mental health
- Ecological problems created by man: of different types, at different
levels, from different angles (social, economic, technical, etc.)
WHY ARE THESE PROBLEMS UNRESOLVED MESSES IN MANY CASES?
Because no merely piecemeal approaches can lead to a good understanding
of the structure and dynamics of the complex wholes.
WHAT DO WE NEED
A set of concepts and models which can be used to understand
relationships and moreover, simultaneous, transient and shifting
By their nature, such models and concepts are necessarily nonlinear.
They should never be isolated from each other: they really must conform
a conceptual network.
Accordingly they must transcend disciplinarian work, but should at the
same time integrate all specialized insights in an organized synthesis,
i.e. modelize the synergies.
We must collect all synergetic concepts and models.
We must integrate them in multiple cross ways.
We should construct sets of any number of them and use these specific
tools to resolve or at least better manage unresolved complex problems.
However, there is undoubtly a systemic-cybernetic vision ("Weltanschauung") which includes:
-A conceptual frame:
- A systemic ontology and epistemology;
-The controllled uses of metaphors, analogies and isomorphies.
- The general study and understanding of complexity
-A general taxonomy of systems
-An open set of transdiscliplinary concepts related to complexity;
Aura,Autogenesis, Autonomy, Autopoiesis, Boundary, Chaos, Codification, Communication, Constraint, Control, \Dissipative structuration, Emergence, Environment, Explosive process, Hierarchy, Heterarchy, Homeostasis, Implosion Process, Information, Invironment, Metasystem, Morphogenesis, Morphostatis, Network, Neural organization, Organizational closure, Percolation, Regulation, Self-reference, Self-similarity, Simultaneity, Stress, Synergy, Uncompleteness, Variety, Whole... and surely some more.
A methdology of models derived from these concepts:
- Learning matrixes,
- Markovian Matrixes,
- Neural networks, etc.
A number of more or less interconnected qualitative mathematical formalisms:
-Analysis of reconstructibility (Klir),
- Automate (Turing, von -Neuman, Conway),
-Calculus of indications (Spencer Brown,),
-Catastrophes (Thom, Zeeman).
-Deterministic Chaos (Lorenz, Smale, et al.),
- Fractals (Mandelbrot),
- Fuzzy sets (Zadeh),
-Games, Graphs, Groups, etc...
A number of specific applications:
- Expert systems,
-Systems dynamics, etc...
- ...and, indirectly, a number of more specific disciplines:
In short, an enormous trove, totally or partially unknown, even by the systemists themselves.
In various forms, such a tutorial has been developed along the last fifteen years by our Argentine Association.
Presently, the tutorial includes two succesive modules.
A. An Introductory Tutorial
1. The sources of knowledge
- Physical, physiogical, psychological, and cultural limits to perception and conceptualization.
2. The System
- Whole and parts
- General characteristics of sub-systems
- Environment, input and output, sources and sinks
- Processes; inter and intrasystemic flows, interconnections, functions.
- Stucture; order and form.
3. Systems Transformations
- Growth and Morphogenesis
- Fluctuations and instabiliities
- Emergence through dissipative structuration
- Aging and destruction
4. Cybernetics 1
- Positive, negative and compensating feedbacks
- Regulation, control and hierarchy
- Variety and constraints
- Law of requiste variety
5. Cybernetics 11
- Information: signs, signals, significations, data, codes, languages, messages
- Communication: Transmission and quantification of information.
-Channels, noise, redundancy
B. A second level Tutorial
1. Metaphors, analogies, isomorphies:
- Their transdisciplinary uses.
2. Complexity levels:
- Miller's taxonomy of living systems; -levels of organization;
- critical subsystems;
3. The various kinds of systems:
- Their ways of processing energy, matter and information.
Neural nets and complex systems genesis.
4. From autopoiesis to autogenesis and vice-versa.
- The limits of autonomy; controls, natural and artificial;
cybenetics of the complex control.
5. Complex cyclical behavior in systems:
- Deterministic chaos; limits to determinism in prospective and planning;
- multi-level cyclical forecasting and planning.
6. Cybernetics of second order:
- The observer according to von Foerster, Maturana, and Jumarie;
-Korzybski's Structural differential
7. Creation of information:
- Information treatment;
- formalized languages.