Dances with Systems

I found an article: Whole Earth: Dancing with Systems

self-organizing, nonlinear, feedback systems are inherently unpredictable. They are not controllable. They are understandable only in the most general way. The goal of foreseeing the future exactly and preparing for it perfectly is unrealizable. The idea of making a complex system do just what you want it to do can be achieved only temporarily, at best. We can never fully understand our world, not in the way our reductionistic science has led us to expect. Our science itself, from quantum theory to the mathematics of chaos, leads us into irreducible uncertainty. For any objective other than the most trivial, we can’t optimize; we don’t even know what to optimize. We can’t keep track of everything. We can’t find a proper, sustainable relationship to nature, each other, or the institutions we create, if we try to do it from the role of omniscient conqueror.
Systems thinking leads to another conclusion, however – waiting, shining, obvious as soon as we stop being blinded by the illusion of control. It says that there is plenty to do, of a different sort of “doing.” The future can’t be predicted, but it can be envisioned and brought lovingly into being. Systems can’t be controlled, but they can be designed and redesigned. We can’t surge forward with certainty into a world of no surprises, but we can expect surprises and learn from them and even profit from them. We can’t impose our will upon a system. We can listen to what the system tells us, and discover how its properties and our values can work together to bring forth something much better than could ever be produced by our will alone.
We can’t control systems or figure them out. But we can dance with them!

This article sums up, in a nice way, what I do for a living. Cool.

From an article by Donella Meadows, published in Whole Earth Winter 2001, via heavybit.com.

posted at 9:26 am on Tuesday, January 21, 2003 in Programming | Comments Off on Dances with Systems

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.