The Past, Present and Possible Future for Systems

The Past, Present and Possible Future for Systems

Gianfranco Minati (Italian Systems Society, Milano, Italy)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 9
DOI: 10.4018/IJSS.2017010101
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In this article, the author briefly summarise the characteristics of the science of complexity or post- Bertalanffy General Systems. The author discusses the shift from considering systems as acquiring properties due to their explicit or supposed design, to self-organised, emergent systems. Characteristics, approaches to modelling and interventions to change vary in nature with the post-Bertalanffy Systemics. While new suitable models and approaches are under study in sciences, such as physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, engineering, and neurosciences, the author detects significant backwardness when dealing with the complexity of social systems and related problems that are developing in the post-industrial age. These problems include economic crises, security, defence, privacy, managing prisons, and supporting development. Such social problems are inadequately faced by using classical Bertalanffy's systemic concepts or by simply transposing models and changing the meaning of variables. This inadequacy is based on the underestimation of the peculiarities of Human Systems that consist of complex interactions that allow coherence and are also cognitive, informal, learning, evolutionary, ecological and non-governable Luhmannian subsystems. The non-cultural or low-cultural accessibility of the approaches considered by the science of complexity contribute to this inadequacy. Finally, the author presents some comments on how the science of systems may further evolve by considering new types of systems and systemic properties such as systemic fields and quantum systems. He speculates about some possible future understanding of human social systems.
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1. Introduction

Are General Systems Theory and the science of complexity sufficient to adequately model post-industrial social problems? In this paper, we explore the past, the present and a possible future of the science of systems and how newer types of systems and systemic properties may be applied to social problems. In Section 2 we briefly summarise the concept of system as introduced by Von Bertalanffy (1901-1972). The concept was introduced in the 1950s and further described in the books General System Theory and Perspectives on General System Theory: Scientific-Philosophical Studies (Von Bertalanffy, 1950; 1968; 1975). Bertalanffy considered systems as interdisciplinary invariant models. The concept of system was expanded on with other terms such as Systems Thinking, Systems Practice (Checkland, 1981), The Systems Approach (Churchman, 1968), General Systems Theory (Boulding, 1956), and the generic term Systemics (Minati and Pessa, 2006, pp. 3-12) where disciplinary systems could possibly be considered interdisciplinary, used and adapted by changing the meaning of variables. The focus shifted from the attempt to define a general system as invariant to representing different phenomena as system. We also present examples of the currently ubiquitous usage of the concept of system and its general properties. We compare the conceptual parallelism between the concepts of the Bertalanffy’s Systemics, with concepts and approaches used in industrial societies (Drucker, 1968; 1989) and by classical physics.

In Section 3 we briefly summarise the characteristics of the science of complexity (Boccara, 2010; Hooker, 2011; Mikhailov and Calenbuhr, 2002), and post-Bertalanffy General Systems Theory (Minati, et al., 2016a; Minati, 2016a; Minati and Pessa, 2014). The science of complexity relates to the shift from considering systems as acquiring properties due to their explicit or supposed design, to self-organising (mainly given to synchronisations) and emergent (mainly given to coherence) systems. It also relates to shifts from linearity to non-linearity; from explicit, symbolic models to sub-symbolic models; and from completeness to theoretical incompleteness (Minati, 2016b). The focus of the science of complexity is on coherence. However the earlier concept of system survived, enhanced by suitably adapting concepts such as interaction, acquisition of properties and identity. In Section 3, we also mention the conceptual parallelism with concepts and approaches used in the post-industrial age and by classical physics dealing with advanced thermodynamic and electronic problems. We show how new concepts introduced in science and in the post-Bertalanffy science of complexity did not generate new corresponding cultural concepts suitable to handle social problems. The knowledge used by post-industrial societies (Bell, 1973; Haunss, 2015; Kumar, 2004; Minati, 2007; 2012a; 2012b) to deal with current social problems, such as crises, is primarily the industrial and, correspondingly, pre-complexity knowledge. In other words, the knowledge used to manage post-industrial societies is developed primarily from the knowledge used in industrial societies.

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