SYSTEMS THEORY/SCIENCE/THINKING/APPROACH/METHODOLOGY is a transdisciplinary and multiperspective scientific inquiry that studies structure and properties in terms of their interrelationships. Ervin Laszlo contrasts the system model with the Classical science model of reductionism as a shifting of emphasis from parts to the organization of parts; from the “component to the dynamic” as he puts it. Erich Jantsch writes, “Quite generally, a system becomes observable and definable through its interactions. <ref>Jantsch E (1980) The Self-Organizing-Universe. Pergamon Press</ref> They emphasize that it is through these mutually interactive relationships that new properties of the whole emerge. Bela H Banathy regards this observation to be the “value” of systems theory; as this new whole has properties which are not found in the constituent elements. “We cannot understand the whole bit by bit” he explains.[1] <!–(See Note 1:) –>


The development of the integrative systems model is traced by Bertalanffy to the 1600's in the binary numbering system of G.W. von Leibniz and the Coincidentia Oppositorum model by Nicholas of Cusa. System principles can be traced even further back, to Aristotle's “whole is greater than the sum of the parts” and even the I Ching and Yin/Yang. It can be perceived in Lao Tzu's Harmony of opposites; Heraclitus' Epistemology of Fluxation & unified opposites; the Water/Air/Fire/Earth philosophy of Epedocleus; Spinoza's Philosophy of the whole; Bergson's Process and in particular Needham & Woodger's organizing relations, and many others. The mathematics of complex systems, greatly aided by advances made possible by the computer, has emerged as complexity science. Systems theory compares, in mathematics, to Category Theory.


Modern systems theory emerged on two complementary fronts: Systems Theory and Cybernetics.

Cybernetics arose parallel to systems theory mainly through the work of mathematician Norbert Wiener. During World War 11, Norbert Wiener was called on to resolve the technical problem of matching aircraft velocity with anti-aircraft shell velocity. Recognizing the advantages of looking at all sides of the problem, he went on to formulate Cybernetics, a science of control and information,with an emphasis on the particular relationship of feedback, during the Macy conferences. Systems theory and cybernetics are closely related to eachother.

OPERATIONS RESEARCH Operations Research became famous when it worked out an optimal size for convoys transversing the seas during WW2. It can be traced back to British achievements learned while maintaining world-wide colonys. Early system research began as Operations Research and Systems Analysis. Operations Research (O.R.)is defined broadly by St. Beer, “Operations research is the attack of of modern science on complex problems arising in the direction and management of enterprises.” R. Ackoff describes O.R as a methodology beginning with an analysis of desired outcomes and objectives of the organization. Using tools such as linear programming and computer simulations, theories such as allocation, queing, sequencing, routing, replacement, competitive and search theories, models depicting behavior and performance are equated to functions under management control. Recent advances such as chaos theory has shown prediction can never be accurate and attempts to further this field of research led to little more than mathematical modeling, arguably what it was intended for in the first place. <ref>Francois C (1997) Editor; International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics: K.G.Saur (p. 252)ISBN 3-598-11357-9</ref>

In the sixties considerable effort was made to transfer principles to the social domain. Further developments emerged in the work of Andrew Sage and Arthur Hall. When “hard” systems approaches failed to achieve goals in the social domain, “soft” systems emerged with Peter Checkland's Soft System Methodology (SSM) which was enhanced by Jackson's Critical Systems, Ulrich's Critical Heuristics and Flood's Total Systems Intervention.


Following World War 2, systems engineering was developed to address the design, implementation and operation of large, complex technical systems. Along with it's sister disciplines: systems analysis and operations research, systems engineering flourished during the 50's and 60's. While it served well as a unitary problem solving tool where objectives and procedures are well defined and easy to agree on, management science and system thinking communities characterized it in the 70's as a hard systems approach because it derived its philosophical base from the hard sciences. Systems engineering emphasis is on the achievement of objectively stated goals related to the delivery of technical products appropriate for solving mechanical-unitary problems.

In the past decade, systems engineering had found system theory principles useful and has incorporated them into it's own methodologies. For now the systems engineer is interested not only in the components making up his focus of interest, he is also interested in the end user and how it performs in the field. Systems engineering thus calls on systemic principles in order to broaden the scope or scale of its action. Currently (Sage 2006) systems engineering includes the technical systems; their interaction with the human and environmental stakeholders; the systems that support the users' use of the systems, the enabling systems; and the organizations doing the development work, the process systems.

In the research paper published in the IFSR journal: Systems Research Behavior Science, Cook and Ferris argue, ”…that, as such, systems engineering is an appropriate methodology for any problem situation where the solution can be expected to involve a substantial technical component.” They contend that systems engineering is really a transdisciplinary metamethodology because of the use of many methodologies. They also believe that Systems engineering ”…should be recognized within the Total Systems Intervention framework as the appropriate methodology to address issues in any category sector of the matrix. where it is anticipated that the solution is likely to involve design of something involving a substantial amount of technology. In turn systems engineering includes the insight-eliciting methods of systems thinking, and uses them to address issues in a manner guided by the Total Systems Intervention framework.” <ref>Cook, Stephen C. and Ferris, Timothy L.J. (2007) Re-evaluating Systems Engineering as a Framework for Tackling Systems Issues. Systems Research and Behavior Science; John Wiley & Sons (169-181)</ref>


System Dynamics originated at MIT by Jay Forrester as an attempt to explain production fluctuations resulting from business cycles. A business cycle such as the Christmas buying season sets off cycles due to a lag in information from retail stores to distributors to manufacturing plants.

In a study entitled World Dynamics, Forrester developed a model called World2 which integrated the study of populatiohn, resources and pollution, which previously were studied in isolation. This led to an overview titled The Limits to Growth which was translated into many languages. As a result modeling techniques sprang up in countries round the world. In 1982 Donella Meadows, John Richardson and Gerhart Bruckmann published the book Groping in the Dark, the title referencing to the well known joke about a drunk looking for his keys under a light because that is the only place he could see. <ref>Umpleby, Stuart A. and Dent, Eric B.. (1999) The origins and purposes of Several Traditions in Systems Thoery and Cybernetics.Cybernetics and Systems: An International Journal, 30: 79-103 </ref>

Briefly, system dynamics methodology:: *identifies a problem, *develops a dynamic hypothesis explaining the cause of the problem, *builds a computer simulation model of the system at the root of the problem, *tests the model to be certain that it reproduces the behavior seen in the real world, *devises and tests in the model alternative policies that alleviate the problem, and *implements this solution.


“By definition, living systems are open, self-organizing systems that have the special characteristics of life and interact with their environment. This takes place by means of information and material-energy exchanges.” [3]

The 'Living Systems Theory' of James Grier Miller is described as an open system characterized by information and material flows. The properties ( or behavior) of a system as a whole emerge out of the interaction of the components comprising the system.

In the conceptual system developed by Miller, living systems form eight levels of organization and complexity:

The principal components are cells, in simple, multi-cellular systems; organs, which are groups of cells; organisms (there are three kinds of organisms: fungi, plants and animals); groups, which contain two or more organisms and their relationships; organizations, which involve one of more groups with their own control systems for doing work; communities, including both individual persons and groups; societies, which are loose associations of communities; and supranational systems, organizations of societies.

Regardless of their complexity, they each depend upon the same essential twenty subsystems (or processes) to survive and to continue the propagation of their species or types beyond a single generation. “The twenty subsystems that process information or material-energy or both account for the survival of living systems, at any level.” “Living Systems Theory is a general theory about how all living systems ”work,” about how they maintain themselves and how they develop and change [4]


By definition a simple system is a complex. Complexity is inherant in any system at least in principle. Complexity science emerged to study the mathematics of nonlinear dynamical systems.


Ludwug von Bertalanffy defined a system philosophically as “elements in standing interrelationship.” Systemists explain that the interactive relationships of the elements are emergent relationships and subsequently form a new emergent whole. This whole system may have properties which are not found in the elements when taken in isolation. An example often used by systemists is the wetness of water that cannot be found in the elemental gases of Oxygen and Hydrogen which make up the water.

Systemics/systems theory differs from classical science in that the reductionist tool of science places emphasis on the component or object and their relations. It is a science about taking things apart. While the systems view, without invalidating the knowledge about the thing, considers, as a complementary, what those things are doing together or how they work together. It is the working together of the mutual relationships which transcend the elements becoming an emergent whole. As in the case of water, our experience of these relationships is our experience of the whole. Without exception we do not taste the poisonous sodium or chorine in the salt we sprinkle on our food. Nor is it likely that the meaning of these words will be found in the black or white they are formed from.

In addition to this foundational definition, systemics made significant movements in three major directions. One is that the system is in a relationship with the environment, also known as the open system. The second, formulated formally in the philosophy of Second Order Cybernetics, acknowledges the crucial role the observer plays in forming a complete description of the system/environment. The third is the ontological change from a language of nouns (objects) to the language of verbs (Process).Therefore it is essential that all perspectives be included or “swept in” to form the whole.

The late Bela H. Banathy contributed extensively to the knowledge base of systems theory, human activity systems (HAS) in particular. His role was that of an educator, having taught Boy scouts, North American Indians and Phd's. Professor Banathy wrote, “In contrast with the analytical, reductionist, and linear-causal paradigm of classical science, systems philosophy brings forth a reorientation of thought and world view, manifested by an expansionist, non- linear dynamic, and synthetic mode of thinking….Traditional science was unable and unwilling to consider Purpose and Meaning which, in the emerging view of disciplined inquiry, has a guiding role. And where dominance once was the purpose, there is now a search for establishing a grand Alliance of science, philosophy, art, and religion.” <!–<ref></ref>–>

GENESIS OF THE SYSTEMS MOVEMENT The beginning of systems science and the goals of that movement as a science in service to humanity is explained by the late Bela H, Banathy. a co-founder of IFSR and considered by the systems community as a significant educator of systems theory.

“At this point it seems to be appropriate to tell the story that marks the genesis of the systems movement. Kenneth Boulding told this story at the occasion when I was privileged to present to him the distinguished scholarship award of the Society of General Systems Research at our 1983 Annual Meeting, the year was 1954. At the Center for Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, four Center fellows - Bertalanffy (biology), Boulding (economics), Gerard (psychology), and Rapaport (mathematics) –had a discussion in a meeting room. Another Center fellow walked in and asked: “What going on here” Ken answered, “We are angered about the state of the human condition and ask:” What can we do – what can science – do about improving the human condition?” “Oh!” their visitor said, “That is not my field. . . .

“At that meeting the four scientists felt that in the statement of their visitor they heard the statement of the fragmented disciplines that have little concern for doing anything practical about the fate of humanity. So, they asked themselves, “What would happen if science would be redefined by crossing disciplinary boundaries and forge a general theory that would bring us together in the service of humanity?”

“Later they went to Berkeley, to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and established the society for the Advancement of General Systems Theory. Throughout the years, many of us in the systems movement have continued to ask the question: “How can systems science serve humanity?”

And thus, in 1954, at the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Kenneth Boulding, Ralph Gerard, and Anatol Rapoport established systems theory as a scientific methodology to become a science dedicated to the service of humanity.[2] In collaboration with James Grier Miller, the Society for General Systems Research (SGSR) was formed in 1956 as an affiliate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. SGSR was renamed the International Society for the System Sciences (ISSS) in 1988. Adherents today often find home for their ideas and research within the national and international societies and their respective chapters, most of which are affiliates of the International Federation for Systems Research (IFSR).


Ludwig von Bertalanffy's book General System Theory brought together the concepts and models of organismic thought using the umbrella word 'system'. His book and the establishment of a research society served as the stage for the beginning of the systems movement. General systems theory is concerned with the concepts, principles, and models that are common to all kinds of systems and the isomorphisms between and among various types of systems. Bertalanffy writes, “In our considerations we started with a general definition of 'systems' defined as a “set of elements standing in interrelations… No special hypothesis or statement were made about the nature of the system, of its elements or the relations between them. Nevertheless from this purely formal definition of “system” many properties follow which in part are expressed in laws well-known in various fields of science, and in part concern concepts previously regarded as anthropomorphic, vitalistic. or metaphysical. The parallelism of general conceptions or even special laws in different fields therefore is a consequence of the fact that those are concerned with “systems” and that certain general principles apply to systems irrespective of their nature… [1]

Kenneth Boulding writes in the 1968 International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, “The task of general systems theory is to find the most general conceptual framework in which a scientific theory or technological problem can be placed without losing the essential features of the theory or problem.” []

Bertalanffy writes: “There appear to exist general system laws which apply to any system of a particular type, irrespective of the particular properties of the systems and the elements involved. Compared to the analytical procedure of classical science with resolution into component elements and one-way or linear causality as basic category, the investigation of organized wholes of many variables requires new categories of interaction, transaction, organization, teleology…” []The proponents of general systems theory see in it the focal point of resynthesis of knowledge.” []

Banathy describes how systemists work with general principles -“By observing various types of systems and studying their behavior, we can recognize characteristics that are common to all systems. Once we have identified and described a set of concepts that are common to the systems, and observed and discovered among some of them certain relationships, we can construct from them General Systems Principles. Thus, a system principle emerges from an interaction/integration of related concepts. Next, we are in the position to look for relationships among principles and organize related principles into certain conceptual schemes we call Systems Models. This process of starting from observation and arriving at the construction of systems models constitutes the First Stage of developing a systems view.

GENERAL SYSTEMS THEORY SKEPTICS General Systems Theory has, as Laszlo puts it, “wroth a certain amount of havoc” Skeptics claim that no success has been seen toward the development of a singular general system theory. “There ain't no such thing!” Len Troncale stated. Instead, apologists claim, the term is being mistranslated and actually is supposed to be of a much more general concept of theories.

Nevertheless, Bertalanffy poses a crucial question on the last page of General Systems Theory (p.250) in note seven, where he asks: “Notice the theological motive in Leibniz's invention of the binary system. It represented Creation since any number can be produced by a combination of “something” (1) and “nothing” (0). But has this antithesis metaphysical reality, or is it but an expression of linguistic habits and of the mode of action of our nervous system?”

On the other hand, many have cited the Complementary principle synergy, i.e., working together, which if taken in the philosophical sense, is a (the?)general system principle. Menas Kafatos and Robert Nadeau hypothesize in their book ”The Conscious Universe: Part and Whole in Modern Physical Theory.” the hypothesis that since all physical theories have been explained in complementary terms it is reasonable to assume that all future constructs will also be complementary. <ref>Menas Kafatos and Robert Nadeau, (1990) The Conscious Universe: Part and Whole in Modern Physical Theory. Springer Verlag, New York.</ref>


Criticisms of system theory center on what practitioners have done with the theory whereas little if any criticisms concern the concept itself. Don McNeil evaluates the system movement predicament and claims there is no comprehensive theory of systems; no standard textbook of fundamentals, no definitive workbook of techiques and applications.

McNeil claims that subsequently systems theory has yet to define itself and its subject matter and has failed to establish itself as a discipline inviting charletans to preempt it's concepts and misrepresent them.

Francois adds, “Unfortunately, there is much truth in McNeil's indictment, even if it will be difficult - and inappropriate – to transform systems thinking or systems approach into a “discipline”. This would put it nicely in a small and segregated intellectual niche, while it really shound become the basic ground of anybody confronted with complex situations of any kind, anywhere at any time, i.e., all of us!{”


Systems philosophy/theory/thinking/action is transdisciplinary in the sense that relationships are a common story so to tell that story in any field, be it literature or atomic systems, essentially the same words may be used to describe general notions which are fleshed out within the particular discipline.

A transdisciplinary language is not a specific language taken for example from any one of the particular disciplines which then would have to be learned by everyone outside that discipline. A transdisciplinary language can use common words known by everyone, but in a special contextual way which describes those common features of various disciplines. See for example the article Systems biology in which the descriptions and terminology could be used in any discipline.

SYSTEMS PHILOSOPHY Because systems theory is concerned with principles that are general, philosophy has a crucial influence, hence systems philosophy is a guiding element of systems theory.The transdisciplanarity of systems theory is realized at the philosophical level, whereas the particular level of science is constrained by those particulars to only those particulars. Conversely, when particulars are generalized, the particularities are removed becoming by design unprovable but general.


Eberhard Umbach describes systems science as a highway with many turns off's. Systems science was conceived in the first half of the 20th century to get beyond the limitations of the specialized sciences and the concomitant loss of overview.

The various approaches, Umbach explains, are different destinations sought-after by different advocates of systems science:

*a general concept for networking the specialized scientific disciplines for solving complex problems.

*structural similarities that transcend single disciplines,

*an approach to unite the specialized scientific languages into one overall scientific language,

*methods to construct quantified mathematical computerized models for complex problems,

*introductions to the new sciences like information science, catastrophe theory, chaos theory,

*approaches to ground holistic thinking,

*analyses and solutions for the central world problems,

*a consistent personal world view.

In general, systems science is a multidimensional field of scientific inquiry requiring inclusion of all dimensions. Systems science is also multiperspective, sweeping in all relevant perspectives. It would be a mistake to assume that systems science is limited to only what many would call “science.” Systems science sweeps in all relevant domains of information, but in as rigorous a fashion as it is done in science. Critical systems methodologies are designed to critically ascertain what is critical and what is trivial.

Umbach describes the situation as, “The pracititoners of science, by including constructivism and epistemology, would simply regognize the evident fact that science is nothing absolute, but ONE method of constructing mental images of reality and possible future realities. This method yields excellent results for investigating (= elaborating testable mental models of) interesting facts in the Universe and constructing all kinds of technology. But it is inappropriate for solving questions about complex chaotic phenomena like the future of world society or only the future of one individual. The reason for this is that a scientific mental models of chaotic phenomena must contain too many feedback loops and become to large to be handled”

SYSTEMS THINKING A tendency or natural predisposition to think in terms of systemic relationships without necessarily drawing upon systems concepts, systems principles, or systems models. Some examples of areas that incorporate and foster such thinking include permaculture, systems biology, feminist studies, ecology, Zen and the I Ching. Systems thinking is ontologically different from elemental thinking.The subject of systems thinking is the interrelationships among the objects. But NOT in the object way. Systems thinking instead is thinking in terms of action/doing/knowing.

SYSTEMS INQUIRY Ludwig von Bertalanffy outlines the inquiry of systems in three major domains: Philosophy, Science, and Technology. In his work with the Primer Group, Bela H. Banathy generalized the domains into four integrated “domains of systemic inquiry” operating recursively.

(1) 'Philosophy': ontology, epistemology, and axiology of systems; If a distinction is made between philosophy and science whereas science is specific and philosophy is general, then systems theory is foundationally a philosophy. Bertalanffy says, ”…i.e. the reorientation of thought and world-view ensuing from the introduction of “system” as a new scientific paradigm (in contrast to the analytic, mechanistic, one way casual paradigm of classical science.)

(2) 'Theory': a set of interrelated concepts and principles applying to all systems; Includes the systems science studies, the theory of systems and as a general system theory, a doctrine of principles applying to all systems. These three, Bertalanffy explains, are “not separable in content, but distinguishable in intention.”

These integrate as 'Knowledge'.

(3) 'Methodology': the set of models, strategies, methods, and tools that instrumentalize systems theory and philosophy; Within the systems movement, many methodologies have a problem solving approach and the methodologies are rigorous plans of action.

(4) 'Application': the application and interaction of the domains. Systemists view this as putting their methodology into action. On a broader scale, it is how these principles are utilized in the field such as in the case of systems biology

These integrate as 'Action.'

Integrating Philosophy and Theory as Knowledge, and Methodology and Application as Action, Systems Inquiry then is 'Knowledgeable Action.'

Markus Schwaninger describes this as “Being.”


Crucial to working with systems are the types of system. Varous authors have defined system types similiar to that given us by Bela H Banathy who identifies the major categories as 'Natural' and 'Designed' systems. Natural systems are those which occur in nature while designed systems are those created by us. Designed Systems include:

a) Fabricated/engineered/physical systems;

b) Hybrid systems which combine a designed system with a natural system (Hydroelectric plant)

c) Conceptual systems such as theories, mathematics, philosophy, modeling and descriptive tools; and

d) Human Activity Systems, our purposeful creations (groups)


In Hal LInstone's T.O.P. methodology, developed from experience in the field. the different perspectives one may adopt are grouped into the “Technical, (T); the Organizational(O) and the Personal (P). He maintains that a Technical perspective will not, for example, focus on Personal issues…“Applied to a given system, each perspective yields insights not attainable with the others. Together, T, 0, and P form what Churchman calls a Singerian inquiring system. “Cross-cuing” and integration of the perspectives must be done by the decision maker. An analogy is the American courtroom, where the jury considers various perspectives (witness testimonies) and even prototype integrations (by the prosecutor and defense attorney), but must undertake its own integration to arrive at a verdict. Furthermore, as any executive knows, science-based “replication” and “validation” are not meaningful concepts in this context.”

A summary of the key features:

1. T, 0, and P together form a superior basis for decision making than T alone. Each type offers insights not attainable with the others. The interaction among the perspectives contributes further important insights.

2. The choice of perspectives requires judgment; it is usually not possible to consider all perspectives. A good balance among the three types is always desirable, but there exists no “correct” weighting formula. In business the ability to choose and integrate perspectives that marks the effective executive.

3. 0 and P are case-specific. Obtaining input for 0 and P uses different processes than it does for T (for example, one-on-one interviews).

4. Perspectives are dynamic and change over time.

5. T usually dominates in the planning phase, 0 and P dominate in the decision and implementation phases.

P is often the key to effective communication.

The methodology, a method


An organized arrangement of systems concepts and principles that portray the behavior of a system through time. Its metaphor is the “motion-picture” of “movie” of the system.

Gyorgy Jaros has looked at information as a process. Of his Teleonics concept he writes: “It is argued that these informationally bonded processes are the basic ingredients of life and entities, which appear only as the result of processes, are of secondary importance(?). Thus, in Teleonics one does not speak of interaction between entities, but interaction between processes.”


Hierarchy Theory focuses on levels, and in a grequently used version,on scale. A significant emphasis is on the observer, thus it has been viewed as a theory of observation. For example, an individual human being may be a member of the level I) Organism, or Host, or parasite, II) primate, III) Human), depending on the relationship of the level in question to those above and below. Of particular interest in the scale version is the Holon described as a whole which is also a part of a greater whole. Principle investigators are the economist Herbert Simon, the chemist Ilya Prigogine, and the psychologist Jean Piaget. Modern investigators include Timothy Allen, Jennifer Wilby, Stanley Salthe, Roberto Poli, John McCrone.

Allen writes, “Hierarchy theory is as much as anything a theory of observation. It has been significantly operationalized in ecology, but has been applied relatively infrequently outside that science. There is a negative reaction to hierarchy theory in the social sciences, by virtue of implications of rigid autocratic systems or authority. When applied in a more general fashion, even liberal and non-authoritarian systems can be described effectively in hierarchical terms. There is a politically correct set of labels that avoid the word hierarchy, but they unnecessarily introduce jargon into a field that has enough special vocabulary as it is. ” 2. Pther workers take a more ontological approach.


Stanley Salthe's approach involves two kinds of hierarchy - Scalar and Specification. A Scalar hierarchy, formally a compositonal hierarchy, has levels nested within one another, while Specification hierarchy, formally a subsumption hierarchy, extends ordered intensional complexity. Salthe writes: “Hierarchy Theory encompasses both the scalar hierarchy with nested extensions (represented as scalar levels as in

”[ecosystem [population [organism ]]]

“and also the specification hierarchy of ordered intensional complexity, modeled as integrative levels, therwise ontological levels of reality, as in the following example:

”{physical world {chemical world {biological world {social world {mental world }}}}}

“The notation involved {} and [] reflects the different kinds of levels. Salthe explains: “In the scalar system, [ ] is a selector such lower level dynamics pass are organized by a higher level so as to create the forms and processes of an intermediate level. The system is basically three leveled. In the specification hierarchy { } is a selectively transparent one-way filter. For example, at the level where social dynamics are taking place selected chemical dynamics are also “visible”, in their effects upon the social dynamics, along with the promotion or harnessing of these dynamics by social ones.”


Evolution is a tendency toward greater structural complexity, ecological and/or organizational effectiveness, more efficient modes of operation, and greater dynamic harmony by means of self-organization. A system by definition is an evolutionary system. A significant feature of a system is emergence. When the focus is on the interrelationships of a system, these relationships may be found to have emergent properties, properties which cannot be found in the elements when they are isolated. Thus a system by definition is a creator of novel features. The general evolutionary principle is this “working together” to form something new such as self-organizing systems do. General evolution theory, based on the integration of the relevant tenets of general system theory, cybernetics, information and communication theory, chaos theory, dynamical systems theory, and nonequilibrium thermodynamics can convey a sound nderstanding of the laws and dynamics the govern the evolution of complex systems in the various realms of investigation. Ot should be noted that historically, general evolution, as distinguished from special evolution as conceived by the Darwinian tradition, involved what most would call development –that is, predictable kinds of changes.


Self-organization occurs, for example, in the cell in the process of DNA replication whereby a second DNA molecule is produced as a complementary to the existing strand without any external influences. Self-organization is also seen in the union of the sperm with the ovum to form a relationship. Evolution is initiated by the self-organization of new phenotypic configurations. Self-organized Evolution is a characteristic of a system, not a product of chance events. It involves both system characteristics and contigingency.

W. Ross Ashby wrote: “I am, of course, now discussing the origin of life,. Has modern system theory anything to say on this topic?”

“It has a great deal to say, and some of it flatly contradictory to what has been said ever since the idea of evolution was first considered. In the past, when a writer discussed the topic, he usually assumed that the generation of life was rare and eculiar, and he then tried to display some way that would enable this rare and peculiar event to occur, So he tried to find some special some route from, say, carbon dioxide to the amino acid, and thence to the protein, and so on, through natural selection and evolution to intelligent beings. I say that this looking for special conditions is quite wrong. The truth is the opposite, –every dynamic system generates its own form of intelligent life, is self-organizing in this sense. …With the computers aid we can see the truth of the statement that every isolated determinate dynamic system obeying unchanging laws will develop “organisms” that are adapted to their environments.” <ref>Ashby W.Ross (1962) “Principles of the self-organizing system.” in Principles of Self-Oraganization: Transactions of the University of Illinois Symposium, H. Von Foerster and G.W. Zopf. Jr. (eds,) Pergamon Press London pp. 255-278 </ref>


'Soft' systems was made distinct from 'hard' systems in order to differentiate among the mathematical models employed. Some systems, such as a social system, do not lend themselves to mathematical formulations as they do in, say, chemical reaction systems. Generally, hard systems are the physical systems while Soft systems are Human Activity Systems. The concept was introduced by Peter Checkland in 1981

SOCIAL SYSTEMS DESIGN Social systems design advocates participative democracy in which those affected by the design are the creators of the design. The metaphor of “sweeping in” applies in particular here. This requires a working knowledge of the dynamics which govern the interconnected, interdependant and interacting problems. Solutions emerge when the situation is looked at as a whole. Banathy argues “While traditional science describes what exists as determined by experiments, classification, analysis and deduction in a objective, rational and neutral way, social system design focuses on understanding, by means of analogy, metaphor, criticism and evaluation to form patterns, conjectures and models as a subjective, creative and empathetic concern.”

HUMAN ACTIVITY SYSTEMS Human Activity Systems are designed social systems organized for a purpose, which they attain by carrying out specific functions. The various types of Human Activity Systems include Rigidly controlled systems, (assembly line) Deterministic systems (educational systems); Purposive systems, (Corporations) Purpose Seeking systems, (social systems) and Heuristic systems, (R&D agencies).


Bela H Banathy has developed social system design beginning early in his career. Social systems design does not attempt to design for the affected, “the age of the designer expert is over” he claims. This notion becomes clear when it is realized that a whole system involves those who are affected by it. And pragmatically it is believed by proponents that those who partake in their own systems design are more likely to remain committed to the design. In this way the unique desires of the participants are taken into consideration. Systems theory provides the requisite knowledge of how to design which enables those who are affected to competantly design their own system.


1. H. A. Linstone, Multipte Perspectives for Decision Making, North-Holland, N.Y., 1984. Note: An updated, revised edition is expected to be published in 1999 by Ar-tech House–>


A considerable library of literature about systems ethics was produced, How a systems behaves in relation to the (idealized)goal or purpose of the system is system ethics…


Because systems theory can be used as a metatheory, particularized methodologies of systemics have emerged in various fields. Bertalanffy comments that the content is the same, what is different is the intentions.


Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) was developed by Peter Checkland as a generic systems approach to problem solving in Management. In its simple form, SSM is a progressive learning tool involving gathering information, defining concepts, developing conceptual models, comparing the models to the perceived reality and then action is taken accordingly. The process is recursive.

Fuenmayor extended SSM with his theory of Interpretive Systemology. In this interpretation, fact are not facts in themselves, but are interpretations. He writes: “The methodological search or knowledge is characterized by the modeling of various contexts of meaning, by explicitly interpreting the phenomenon with regard to such contexts of meaning and by discussing the various interpretations in the light of their respective contexts of meaning.”

INTERACTIVE MANAGEMENT Interactive Management is a decision-orientated disciplined inquiry seeking to resolve issues and situations that are beyond ordinary resolution techniques. The concept was developed by Warfield and Christakis in 1980 at the University of Virginia, one of the first design approaches to use computer software programs.

IM has three main phases, Definition, Design of alternatives and Choice of design. In the definition phase, context is defined and components are identified. Patterns of relationships are constructed and interpreted to gain understanding and insight. Based on the information gained, statements of context, sets of objectives and triggering questions guide the inquiry. Through dialogue, the collective best ideas of the participants emerge.

The second phase, prompted by triggering questions, generates options for design solutions. After the options have been clarified, they are categorized in an option field. If the option is deemed essential they become a design dimension. In the third phase, options are chosen from each dimension resulting in an ”option profile.” Finally the design alternatives are described and evaluated with the use of tradeoff analysis methodology (TAM).

Relevant outcomes of IM include (1) participants are involved in significant learning experiences, (2) their involvement creates commitments to the choices made and (3) careful and detailed documentation enables wide distribution of findings available for continuing design. <ref> Banathy, Bela H. (1996) Designing Social Systems in a Changing World. Plenum Press, New YOur. ISBN 0-306-45251-0</ref>


Critical systems theory is a soft system methodology which tries to equalize the power inequities which often thwart SSM. Jackson writes ” privileged stakeholders (in terms of wealth, status, or power) are unlikely to risk their dominant position and submit their privileges to the vagaries of idealized design or whatever.”


Werner Ulrich sees science as the study of “contexts of application” .”<ref>Bausch KC (2000) The Emerging Consensus in Social Systems Theory. Kluwar Academics, New York p126</ref> He finds a problem between science and those affected by it. His concern about the coercive effects of pseudoscience. As in many other situations, the ideal circumstances might make an idealized system model work, but life is ill-defined. Ulrich has in mind those who are unwitting victims of ideological forces. Domination of one over the other ”by forces other than that of the better argument. “Critical heuristics posits three requirements: (1) “a clear understanding of the unavoidability and critical significance of justification break-off's; (1) a conceptual framework to identify effective breakoff's of argumentation”; and (3) “a tool of cogent argumentation that would be available …to ordinary citizens.” “The systems movement will make a real contribution toward communicative systems rationalization if it puts the systems idea to work on the job of dealing critically with conditions of imperfect rationality” Ulrich advises.


Total Systems Intervention is described by Mike Jackson and R. Flood as a total systems approach to planning, designing, problem solving and evaluation. The TSI Process involves the learned use of metaphors to arrive at a select methodology or methodologies which will yield highly relevant and coordinated intervention and change necessary to address organizational concerns.

Three stages of the TSI Process include the creativity stage in which metaphors such as organization as a machine, or organism, or brain, or culture, or team, or coalition, or prison, leads to enhanced appreciation of key issues. The second stage is a choice of a dominant methodology to tackle the key issues. And the third is implementation. The process is systemic and iterative with continual reference back to other phases of the process.

INTERGRATED SYSTEMS METHODLOGIES “ISM is a heuristic to provide actors in organizations with requisite variety, developed by Schwaninger [1997]. It advocates (a) dealing with both content- and context-related issues, and (b) placing a stronger emphasis on the validation of qualitative and quantitative models, as well as strategies, in both dimensions: content and context. For this purpose, the tools of SD (to model content)and Management Cybernetics – the VSM (to model context) - are cogently integrated.” Coparticipative Design Viable Systems modeling Expert systems An expert system is a computer program designed in the technical perspective which is able to solve problems similar to how a group of experts might solve the problem. From the conversations of knowledge engineers, relevant data is used to produce production rules used to work with the data to produce useful conclusions.

Reconstrucbility Analysis Management science Interactive Management Architecture of Complexity


John Warfield, in his book Understanding Complexity, Thought and Behavior, writes about a program centered on the relationships among the elements of a complexity. He calls this the “Work Program of Complexity”, designed to illuminate the perplexity of complexity through “learning”. The program has two fundamental thrusts, one toward discovery and the other toward resolution. Discovery has two thrusts: description and diagnosis. Resolution has two also, planning and implementation. The program uses Interactive Management principles to enable a group to come to grips with a problem.

The most difficult step is the first step, that of description. Fraught with pitfalls, killer assumptions, lack of foundational principles, dominant personalities, and the like, bringing all the contributing factors into the open requires considerable effort. Warfield uses groups and idea generators to submit viewpoints directed toward a Trigger Question After clarification and authenticity, the listing of contributions is interrelated into a Problematique A “Problematique” is a modeling using a combination of prose and graphics, permitting a view of all the aspects in a relationship. Prose alone is inadequate to express systemic relationships. If the number of elements in a problem field is large, seeing all of them together is usually enlightening.

Once the Problematique is created, and presented in an observatorium in such a manner to be worthy of the work involved, a diagnosis is formed, a plan devised, and then implemented.


“A systems view enfolds large sets of concepts that constitute principles common to all kinds of systems, that are manifested in multiple connotations, such as the way we can think (systems thinking), the way we understand phenomena (having a systems perspective), and characterize an entity (systems discription) the way an entity behaves (systems behavoir) and the way we might do things (systems practice). … Having a systems view of education, for example, means that we can think about education as a system, we can understand and describe it as a system, we can design education so that it manifests systems behavoir, and we can engage in educational inquiry by using approaches and methods of systems practice”<ref>Banathy, Bela H., (1992) A Systems View of Education; Concepts and Principes for Effective Practice. Educational Technology Publications, New Jersey.ISBN 0-87778-245-8</ref>


N. Wiener defined cybernetics in 1948 as the field of control and communication in the animal and the machine. This thread has produced technical cybernetics described by I.G. Bloor “as a technique it has become the design template for mechanical and electronic systems and latterly the design of management informations systems. Cybernetic theory requests that all inputs to, and outputs from a system must be defined or designed together with suitable triggers or sensor mechanisms to detect change in activity or response.” (1987 p.8)

Second order cybernetics emerged through the work of St. Beer, G. Pask, H. von Foerster, M Maruyama, H. Maturana and others. Von Foerster defined 1st Order Cybernetics as the cybernetics of the observed system whereas 2nd order cybenetics is the cybernetics of the observing system. S. Umpleby proposed in 1979 that while first order cybernetics is concerned wih the interactions of the variables in a system, second order cybernetics is concerned with the interaction between the observer and the observed.(IESC p.91)

Third Order Cybernetics is a systhesis of the observed and the observer.


It is the nature of a system that there are outward and inward flows of information and communication. If the field of systems theory is looked at with this model, we also find this complementary of in/out in this way: (1) Systems Theory is practiced by systems theorists/academicians as the focus of their research (outward), while (2) others outside the systems academic domain use system principles (inward) to focus on their research, whatever that might be. An illustration of how systems thinking is practiced by those outside the systems movement can be found in the article systems biology.

It should be noted that systemists emphasize they are not calling for a replacement of analysis by systems theory, rather there should be a complementary treatment or as it is put by Holton, both should be viewed as a “couple”

”…it is the more important for us to seek out the relations within the Analysis and Synthesis couple in order to understand the full power of each of the components rather than be misled by the asymmetrical valuations of them in contemporary theory and practice – possibly the result of the preponderance and success of reductionistic thought in our time.”<ref>Holton C (1998) The Scientific Imagination Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts. </ref>

An example of how systems theory emerges in the field can be found at the Institutes for System Biology website where they write of systems thinking using words that can be used in any field, including serving as a summary of systems philosophy.


Systems biologists try to accomplish their aims in part:

:*by identifying and quantifying the system's components &mdash; for cells, acquiring so-called '-omics' data, including the numbers and types of nucleic acids, proteins, and metabolites;

:*by identifying, characterizing, and to the extent possible, quantifying the interrelations (structural) and interactions (dynamical, coordinated, hierarchical) among the components of a system; for example, (a) molecular components: gene and protein interactions involved in a cell’s metabolic pathways; (b) organism components: organ interactions resulting in blood pressure homeostasis; ecosystem components: predator and prey behaviors;

:*by attempting to organize the system’s components abstractly in the form of 'models'/'simulations' &mdash; often mathematical and computational &mdash; which encode such concepts as 'modules', 'circuits' and 'networks', 'network motifs', 'feedback' and 'feedforward' loops, 'homeostasis', hierarchies, 'robustness, 'complexity', 'adaptation', and 'emergence';

:*by conducting additional experiments to define interrelations and interactions of the real system that the model/simulation highlighted as knowledge gaps;

:*by refining the model/simulation on the basis of the data from those experiments;

:*by designing, constructing and testing synthetic biological systems from biological components.<ref>Endy D. (2005) [ Foundations for engineering biology.] Nature 438:449-453 PMID16306983

:*Review of synthetic biology: “…for biologists, the ability to design and construct synthetic biological systems provides a direct and compelling method for testing our current understanding of natural biological systems.”</ref>

<!–Summary found at systems biology institute website –“In summary, systems are comprised of parts which interact. The interaction of these parts gives rise to new properties and functions which are key to the system. We call these new properties and functions “emergent properties”. Because emergent properties are the result of interactions between the parts, they can not be attributed to any single parts of the system. This makes systems irreducible. A system is unlikely to be fully understood by taking it apart and studying each part on its own. (We cannot understand an author's message by studying individual words; we cannot appreciate a forest by looking at individual trees.) To understand systems, and to be able to fully understand a system's emergent properties, systems need be studied as a whole. This recognition that complex systems, especially life, are truly understood from knowledge of the interactions of their component parts is fundamental to systems biology and all the research at the Institute for Systems Biology.” –>


*'Ludwig von Bertalanffy' (1901–1972): Author of General Systems Theory, co-founder of first systems research society, Society for General Systems Research. Generally regarded as the Father of systemics

*was one of the most important theoretical biologists of the first half of this century; researched on comparative physiology, on biophysics, on cancer, on psychology, on philosophy of science …

*developed a kinetic theory of stationary open systems and the General System Theory, was one of the founding fathers and vice-president of the Society for General System Theory, and one of the first who applied the system methodology to psychology and the social sciences …

*published over 200 articles on theoretical biology and General System Theory in journals, among others in Roux' Archiv für Entwicklungsmechanik, Nature, Science, American Naturalist, Quarterly Review of Biology, Philosophy of Science, in books and encyclopedies, wrote over 10 monographies, edited the Handbuch der Biologie , and was translated into English, French, Spanish, Swedish, Japanese, Dutch …

*'Charles François:' Editor of the International Encyclopedia of Systemcs and Cybernetics. Encyclopedic summary of five thousand systemic terms. Two volumes.

*'John N. Warfield:' Interactive Management: First to treat systems science in a rigorous way. General Modeling Theory. Problematique Work Program of Complexity

*'Gordon Pask' Conversation theory “Gordon conceived human-machine interaction as a form of conversation, a dynamical process, in which the participants learn about each other. More recently, he worked on Interaction of Actors Theory Gordon's major work was the development of Conversation Theory, with applications in education (Conversation, Cognition and Learning, Amsterdam:: Elsevier, 1975; Conversation Theory: Applications in Education and Epistemology , Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1976).This grew out of his work with teaching machines. Gordon conceived human-machine interaction as a form of conversation, a dynamical process, in which the participants learn about each other. More recently, he worked on Interaction of Actors Theory, which takes a broader look at communication and the dynamics of social systems. ”

*'Russell L Ackoff:' Interactive Planning, Redesigning the future, Democratic corporations; In an interview by Robert Allio; “Ackoff: You have to understand how the interactions of the parts, and the parts with the whole and its environment, create the properties of the whole. Cause-effect is about actions, not interactions. Most managers currently manage the actions of their organizations’ parts taken separately. This is based on the false assumption that improving the performance of the parts separately necessarily improves the performance of the whole, the corporation. That is a false premise. In fact, you can destroy a corporation by improving its individual parts. Try putting a Rolls Royce engine in a Hyundai.”

*'W Ross Ashby' Requisite Vaiety Cybernetics Homeostatic machine his influence was sufficiently great to have induced Ludwig von Bertalanffly to devote several pages in his book to explaining how they differed on methods of study.1

*'Bela H Banathy:' Systems educator, Systems design of educatiohn; Evolutionary designing reprinted from Thoughts about Bela Banathy “Bela Banathy will go down in history as one of the great systemists along with von Bertalanffy and Wiener. But what sets Bela apart is that he was a great person as well. His scholarship is state of the art and unprecedented in the systems community. His contributions were not only significant but form the foundation of social-systemics. Without him, systems would be a technical tool rather than an evolutionary process.”çois

*'Stafford Beer' Viable Systems Model Organizational Systems design; He produced models applicable to the problems of structure, innovation, autonomy, participatory development, accountability and even pain and alerting in organisations. In the neurophysiological Viable System Model (VSM) he applied Homeostasis and Variety to neuroanatomy. Thus he was able to distinguish Identity maintaining Decisions, Development, Operational and Regulatory management. This supported a strict foundation for evolutionary control and founded Management Cybernetics.

*'Kenneth Boulding' Co-founder of SGSR Philosopher General Systems Theory, the skeleton of science

*Together with N. Georgescu-Roegen and K. W. Kapp, he was one of the first economists who recognized the open system character of the economy and brought intertemporal considerations into allocation and distribution theory.

*Boulding never fell into “entropy-pessimism”. In his evolutionary interpretation, the “arrow of time” does not only have the direction ordained by the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Time is also irreversible with respect to creativity, the origination and extension of human knowledge, gains in complexity and morphogenesis. The phenomenon of how information arises - not just its procurement, diffusion or processing - is of central significance in his model. The ultimate aim of Boulding's scholarly work was a comprehensive theory of development designed to explain economic phenomena on the basis of evolutionary principles.

*'Peter Checkland' Soft systems methodology, Systems thinking systems practice Peter Checkland dinner speech “I went back to the origins of the systems literature and the emergence of Systems Thinking fundamentally from biology and from the organismic biologists who argued that the object of concern in biology was the living organism as a whole and the way to understand that was to look at the processes which characterise living organisms of any kind. And that was a set of ideas which began to resonate with the kind of experiences that we were having. The fundamental idea that got us going was the thought that whether we were working in the giant corporation on the concorde project or in a tiny small firm; whether we werein the public sector or the private sector; all of these human problem situations do have one thing in common: That they contain human beings trying to work together and trying to operate purposefully. Trying to formulate intentions and then trying to realise them. And we thought well, why don’t we take the notion of a “purposeful activity” as a new systems concept.And when human beings talk about “purposeful activity” they give very rich interpretations of it. They never give a basic account of it, they interpret it richly. We then realised the significance of the fact that one observer’s terrorist is another observer’s freedom fighter though they’re both talking about the same purposeful action. And that we would have to take this into account, that we would never be making a purposeful activity model of a real world purposeful activity, we would have to make a whole set of models in order to try them out against the purposeful action that was underway in the real world.”

*'C West Churchman'Philosopher; The design of inquiring systems, thought and Wisdom Professor, School of Business Administration, University of California, “Professor Churchman has taught a variety of courses relating to the philosophy of management science including philosophy of systems science, introduction to ethics and value assumptions of planning and systems design, modeling and problem solving in management science. He also initiated the masters and PhD programs in operations research at the University of California, Berkeley.”

*'Jay Forrester' Systems Dynamics MIT Industrial Dynamics World Dynamics “This evening I have been asked to give not a technical talk but a very personal recollection of how I came to develop the field of system dynamics/ There are two threads that ran through the history. First, everything I have ever done has converged to become system dynamics. Second, at many critical moments, when opportunity knocked, I was willing to walk through the open door to what was on the other side.”

*'George Klir' Mathematics “From classical mathematics to fuzzy mathematics: emergence of a new paradigm for theoretical science.” In: Fuzzy Logic in Chemistry, Academic Press, San Diego, pp. 31-63.

*'H. Linstone' TOP perspectives; In Hal LInstone's T.O.P. methodology, the different perspectives are grouped into the Technical, (T); the Organizational(O) and the Personal (P). He maintains that a Technical perspective will not, for example, focus on Personal issues…“Applied to a given system, each perspective yields insights not attainable with the others. Together, T, 0, and P form what Churchman calls a Singerian inquiring system.

*'Niklas Luhmann' Attempted to form a theory of social systems which is independant of the individual based on the autopoiesis of meaning.

*'Humberto Maturana' Autopoesis and Cognition *”It is our assumption that there is an organization that is common to all living systems, whichever the nature of their components. Since our object is this organization, not the particular ways in which it is realized, we shall not make distinctions between classes or types of living systems ….”

*”We are emphasizing that a living system is defined by its organization and, hence, that it can be explained as any organization is explained, that is, in terms of relations, not of component properties. (Maturana and Varela 1980, 76)”

*Margaret Mead Cybernetics, Macy

*Warren McCulloch

*Charles McClelland

*James Grier Miller Living Systems Theory

*'Harold G Nelson'Harold G. Nelson, Ph.D.,M.Arch., served as President of the International Society for Systems Science. Dr. Nelson designed and directed the Master of Arts Programs in Whole Systems Design and has been the Director of that program at Antioch University’s Seattle Campus for over 12 years. He has also been the Director of Antioch’s institute for the Whole Systems Design. He is President and Board Member of the Advanced Design Institute as well as a member of the Advisory Board for the Leadership institute of Seattle.

*'Howard Odum'In six decades as a professor of environmental sciences at a succession of universities, Dr. Odum pioneered research into ecosystems and helped integrate ecology and economics. His research, often conducted with his older brother, Eugene, an ecologist at the University of Georgia, who died on Aug. 10 at 88, led to the formation of many fields of science, including systems ecology, ecological economics and ecological engineering.

*'Howard Pattee'“Howard Pattee has identified that as a system becomes more elaborately hierarchical its behavior becomes simple. The reason is that, with the emergence of intermediate levels, the lowest level entities become constrained to be far from equilibrium. As a result, the lowest level entities lose degrees of freedom and are held against the upper level constraint to give constant behavior. Deep hierarchical structure indicates elaborate organization, and deep hierarchies are often considered as complex systems by virtue of hierarchical depth.”

*'Ilya Prigogine'Order out of Chaos “Professor Ilya Prigogine was born in Moscow, Russia, on January 25, 1917 and died in Bruxelles on May 28, 2003. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1977 for his contributions to non-equilibrium thermodynamics, particularly the theory of dissipative structures.”

*”The outstanding merit of Ilya Prigogine’s scientific work was to provide a better understanding of the role of time in the Physical Sciences and in Biology. He contributed significantly to the understanding of irreversible processes, particularly in systems far from equilibrium. The results of his work on dissipative structures have stimulated many scientists throughout the world and may have profound consequences for our understanding of biological systems.”

*'Anatol Rapoport'Co-founder SGSRThe programme of research and action proposed by the systemic approach have a chance to be implemented if science is guided by goals of enlightment instead by appetites of accumulation and power acquistion, as it is, for the most part today. This possible (but by no means guaranteed) byproduct of the information revolution could become an emergency exit from our past predicatment.” (The Systemic Approach to Environmental Sociology, 1996).

*'Robert Rosen'Biology; Modeling Relation; Anticipatory systems; (Fischler and Firschein, 1987, 233)

*”No finite organism can completely model the infinite universe, but even more to the point, the senses can only provide a subset of the needed information; the organism must correct the measured values and guess at the needed missing ones.”…“Indeed, even the best guesses can only be an approximation to reality - perception is a creative process.”

*Claude Shannon Communication Theory

*E.A. Singer Jr.Singer quote *Len Troncale Educator *Francisco Varela *Heinz von Foerster *John von Neumann *Geoffrey Vickers *Paul Watzlawick *Norbert Wiener

*'Werner Ulrich'Educator Critical Heuristics of systems

*”Critical systems heuristics (CSH, Ulrich 1983) represents the first systematic attempt at providing both a philosophical foundation and a practical framework for critical systems thinking. The Greek verb heurisk-ein means to find or to discover; heuristics is the art (or practice) of discovery. In management science and other applied disciplines, heuristic procedures serve to identify and explore relevant problem aspects, questions, or solution strategies, in distinction to deductive (algorithmic) procedures, which serve to solve problems that are logically and mathematically well defined. Professional practice cannot do without heuristics, as it usually starts from ‘soft’ (ill-defined, qualitative) issues such as what is the problem to be solved and what kind of change would represent an improvement.” *”In management science and other applied disciplines, heuristic procedures serve to identify and explore relevant problem aspects, questions, or solution strategies, in distinction to deductive (algorithmic) procedures, which serve to solve problems that are logically and mathematically well defined. Professional practice cannot do without heuristics, as it usually starts from ‘soft’ (ill-defined, qualitative) issues such as what is the problem to be solved and what kind of change would represent an improvement”

Influential complexity people:

Chris Langton, computer scientist, pioneer of Artificial Life and the Edge of Chaos, organizer of the first ALife conference; self-reproducing Cellular Automata

Stuart Kauffman, biologist, pioneer of Boolean Networks; biological Self-Organization, autocatalysis, patch procedures

Murray Gell-Mann, physicist, Plectics, Complex Adaptive Systems

John Holland, computer scientist, pioneer of Genetic Algorithms and Classifier Systems; emergence

Benoit Mandelbrot, mathematician, pioneer of Fractals, discoverer of the Mandelbrot Set; fractal dimensions

Per Bak, physicist, pioneer of Self-Organized Criticality; Self-Organization, Power Laws, Punctuated Equilibria

John von Neumann, mathematician, inventor of the Cellular Automata

Steven Wolfram, mathematician, pioneer of Cellular Automata classifications

Aristid Lindermayer, biologist, pioneer of L-systems

Tom Ray, ecologist, Artificial Life and Coevolution, designer of the Tierra simulation

Brian Goodwin, biologist, Qualitative biology, Self-Organizing Emergence

Ian Stewart, mathematician, Chaos, Complicity and Simplexity

Chris Lucas, complexity scientist, promoter of teleological Complex Systems, Transient Attractors, Value Metascience, online education in Complex Systems, and Complexity Philosophy as a belief-changing paradigm

Joshua Epstein, political economist, social Simulations, Artificial Societies

Brian Arthur, economist, Evolutionary economics, increasing returns, instability

Peter Cariani, systems theorist, Emergence, Artificial Life

Jack Cohen, biologist, Simplexity and Complicity

Scott Kelso, complexity scientist, behavioural Complexity, Self-Organization, Dynamical patterns

Fritjof Capra, physicist, author of The Web of Life and Hidden Connections

Robert Axelrod, political scientist, Coevolution, Cooperation and Game Theory

Peter Corning, complexity scientist, Synergy, Self-Organization

Ben Goertzel, mathematician, Self-Organization, Chaotic Logic, Artificial Intelligence

John Conway, mathematician, Cellular Automata, inventor of the Game of Life

Manfred Eigen, theoretical chemist, Hypercycles and Autocatalysis

Ralph Abraham, mathematician, Chaos, Discrete Dynamical Systems

Rudy Rucker, mathematician, Cellular Automata

Vladimir Dimitrov, complexity scientist, Self-Organization of Human Dynamics, Unpredicatability

David Green, ecologist, Ecological Complexity

Stephen Grossberg, cognitive scientist, Neural Networks

Francis Heylighen, physicist, Self-Organization, Cybernetics

Glossary of key terms used by systemists

Because systems language introduces many new terms and new meanings essential to understanding how a system works, a glossary of many of the significant terms follows:

'Adaptive capacity:' An important part of the resilience of systems in the face of a perturbation, helping to minimise loss of function in individual human, and collective social and biological systems.

'Autopoiesis:' The process by which a system regenerates itself through the self-reproduction of its own elements and of the network of interactions that characterize them. An autopoietic system renews, repairs, and replicates or reproduces itself in a flow of matter and energy. Note: from a strictly Maturanian point of view, autopoiesis is an essential property of biological/living systems.

'Boundaries:' The parametric conditions, often vague, always subjectively stipulated, that delimit and define a system and set it apart from its environment.

'Catastrophe:' A mathematical description of a sudden and/or radical change in form, or a similar qualitative change in condition; relates to the theories of Réne Thom. closed system: A state of being isolated from the environment. No system can be completely closed; there are only varying degrees of closure.

'Complexity:' A systemic characteristic that stands for a large number of densely connected parts and multiple levels of embeddedness and entanglement. Not to be confused with complicatedness, which denotes a situation or event that is not easy to understand, regardless of its degree of complexity.

'Culture:' The result of individual learning processes that distinguish one social group of higher animals from another. In humans culture is the set of products and activities through which humans express themselves and become aware of themselves and the world around them. See cognitive map.

'Development:' The process of liberating a system from its previous set of limiting conditions. It is an amelioration of conditions or quality. See growth and evolution.

'Dissipative structure:' A term invented by Ilya Prigogine to describe complex chemical structures undergoing the process of chemical change through the dissipation of entropy into their environment, and the corresponding importation of “negentropy” from their environment. Also known as syntropic systems.

'Embeddedness:' A state in which one system is nested in another system.

'Emergence:' The appearance of novel characteristics exhibited on the level of the whole ensemble, but not by the components in isolation.

'Entanglement:' A state in which the manner of being, or form of existence, of one system is inextricably tied to that of another system or set of systems.

'Entropy:' In thermodynamics, entropy is a measure of energy that is expended in a physical system but does no useful work, and tends to decrease the organizational order of the system. Environment: The context within which a system exists. It is composed of all things that are external to the system, and it includes everything that may affect the system, and may be affected by it at any given time.

'Evolution:' A cosmic process specified by a fundamental universal flow toward ever increasing complexity that manifests itself through particular events and sequences of events that are not limited to the domain of biological phenomenon, but extend to include all aspects of change in open dynamic systems with a throughput of information and energy. In other words, evolution relates to the formation of stars from atoms, of Homo sapiens from the anthropoid apes, and the formation of complex societies from rudimentary social systems.

'Evolutionary Development:' A form of sustainable development concerned with the study of human change in an evolutionary context.

'Evolutionary Leadership:' The form of leadership required for successful sustainability management in an evolutionary context.

'Evolutionary Learning:' A community that strives toward sustainable pathways for Community (ELC) evolutionary development, in synergistic interaction with its milieu, through individual and collective processes of empowerment, and evolutionary learning. ELC's do not adapt their environment to their needs, nor do they simply adapt to their environment. Rather, they adapt with their environment in a dynamic of mutually sustaining evolutionary co-creation.

'Feedback:' A process by which information concerning the adequacy of the system, its operation, and its outputs are introduced into the system. Negative feedback tells us that there is a discrepancy between what the system produces and what it should produce. It tells us that we should change something in the system so that we can reduce the deviation from the norms stated in the output model of the system. Positive feedback, on the other hand, tells us that the whole system should change, that we should increase the deviation from the present state, and change the output model.

'Feedforward:' A process, akin to feedback, that informs current operations with future ideals, and adjusts the output model accordingly.

'Function:' Denotes actions that are required to be carried out in order to meet systems requirements and attain the purpose(s) of the system.

'Functions/structure:' Structural functionalism is a systems model that organizes in relational arrangements model systems concepts and principles that present an image of a system in a given moment of time. A metaphor for this is a “still-picture” or “snapshot” of the system.

'Heterarchy:' An ordering of things in which there is no single peak or leading element, and which element is dominant at a given time depends on the total situation, often used in contrast to hierarchy, also a vertical arrangement of entities (systems and their subsystems), usually ordered from the top downwards rather than from the bottom upwards.

'Holarchy:' A concept invented by Arthur Köestler to describe behavior that is partly a function of individual nature and partly a function of the nature of the embedding system, generally operating in a bottom upwards fashion.

'Holism:' A non-reductionist descriptive and investigative strategy for generating explanatory principles of whole systems. Attention is focused on the emergent properties of the whole rather than on the reductionist behavior of the isolated parts. The approach typically involves and generates empathetic, experiential, and intuitive understanding, not merely analytic understanding, since by the definition of the approach, these forms are not truly separable (as nothing is).

'Hologram:' A three-dimensional photograph created by the interference pattern of two laser beams with the result that each discrete aspect of the image contains all the information necessary to reconstruct the entire image so that, in effect, the whole is contained in all the parts.

'Holon:' A whole in itself as well as a part of a larger system.

'Human Activity Systems:' Designed social systems organized for a purpose, which they attain by carrying out specific functions. Learning: A lifelong process that at the core of adaptive capacity. In human terms it involves a) challenges the learner’s perspective and facilitates the expansion of his/her worldview; b) promotes human fulfillment; c) enables the learner to cope with uncertainty and complexity; and d) empowers the learner to creatively shape change and design the future.

'Lowerarchy:' A specific type of hierarchy involving a ‘bottom up’ arrangement of entities such that the few are influenced by the many.

'Model building:' A disciplined inquiry by which a conceptual (abstract) representation of a system is constructed or a representation of expected outcomes/output is portrayed.

'Open system:' A state and characteristics of that state in which a system continuously interacts with its environment. Open systems are those that maintain their state and exhibit the characteristics of openness previously mentioned.

'Organizational learning:' A process of developing organizational capacity and human capability to articulate and continuously examine the purposes, underlying perspectives and assumptions, and individual and organizational values in view of the (a) performance of the organization, and (b) the changing characteristics and expectations of the environment(s) in which the organization is embedded.

'Paradigms:' The set of fundamental beliefs, axioms, and assumptions that order and provide coherence to our perception of what is and how it works; a basic world view; also, example cases and metaphors. See cognitive map.

'Process model:' An organized arrangement of systems concepts and principles that portray the behavior of a system through time. Its metaphor is the “motion-picture” of “movie” of the system.

'Reductionism:' One kind of scientific orientation that seeks to understand phenomena by a) breaking them down into their smallest possible parts: a process known as analytic reductionism, or conversely b) conflating them to a one-dimensional totality: a process known as holistic reductionism.

'Relationship:' In the most general sense, a relationship is an interaction between the elements of a system. If the elements of the system are things, then the relationship is what those things are doing to each other. This interaction results in emergent properties which are perceived as the whole such as the wetness of the two gases of water.

'Subsystem:' A major component of a system. It is made up of two or more interacting and interdependent components. Subsystems of a system interact in order to attain their own purpose(s) and the purpose(s) of the system in which they are embedded.

'Suprasystem:' The entity that is composed of a number of component systems organized in interacting relationships in order to serve their embedding suprasystem.

'Sustainable development:' A process of human development (individual, societal, or global) that can be said to be socially and ecologically sustainable if it involves an adaptive strategy that ensures the evolutionary maintenance of an increasingly robust and supportive environment. Such a process enhances the possibility that human and other life will flourish in this planet indefinitely.

'Sustainability:' The ability of a system to maintain itself with no loss of function for extended periods of time. In human terms it is the creative and responsible stewardship of resources — human, Management natural, and financial — to generate stakeholder value while contributing to the well-being of current and future generations of all beings.

'Synchrony:' Also synchronicity. In engineering; concurrence of periods and/or phases; simultaneity of events or motions: contemporaneous occurrences. In evolutionary systems thinking; a fortunate coincidence of phenomenon and/or of events.

'Synergy:' Also system. Working together. Synergy is the process by which a system generates emergent properties resulting in the condition in which a system may be considered more than the sum of its parts, and equal to the sum of its parts plus their relationships. This resulting condition can be said to be one of synergy.

'Syntony:' In evolutionary systems thinking; evolutionary consonance; the occurrence and persistence of an evolutionarily tuned dynamic regime. Conscious intention aligned with evolutionary purpose; more loosely, the embodiment and manifestation of conscious evolution; a purposeful creative aligning and tuning with the evolutionary flows of one’s milieu. In traditional radio engineering; resonance.

'Syntropy:' The process of negentropy-importation. A syntropic system is a dissipative structure.

'System:' A group of interacting components that conserves some identifiable set of relations with the sum of their components plus their relationships (i.e., the system itself) conserving some identifiable set of relationships to other entities (including other systems).

'System Domains:' Philosophy; Theory; Methodology; Application.

'System-environment:' A model to examine and define a system in its model context and to organize systems concepts and principles that are relevant to system-environment interactions.

'Systematic thinking:' Any methodical step-by-step approach that is carried out according to a pre-determined algorithm or a fixed plan.

'Systems approach:' A view that perceives phenomena as a system and deals with problem situations and opportunities that emerge by the application of systems thinking.

'Systems design:' A decision-oriented disciplined inquiry that aims at the construction of a model that is an abstract representation of a future system.

'Systems thinking:' An internalized manifestation (in the thinking of individuals or social systems) of systems concepts, systems principles, and systems models.

'Wholeness:' In reference to systems, the condition in which systems are seen to be structurally divisible, but functionally indivisible wholes with emergent properties.

System Journals
Selected external links

*Collected papers

* Emergence Complexity & Organization International Journal :W.Ross Ashby's original paper: Principles of Self Organization: *Emergence, Complexity & Organization Journal :Boulding's original 1956 paper on the skeleton of science.

* Institute for Systems Biology :Contains an introduction to, and in-depth discussion of systems biology. a specific discipline working with systemic principles.

* Ackoff Collaboratory. :Formed to facilitate trans-disciplinary interactions amongst colleagues across scientific fields

* Systems Practice.

* International Society for Systems Science Primer Project. A compilation of papers and essays presenting general principles of systems.

* Italian Systems Society. :Described as a component of the systemic cultural movement.

* Principia Cybernetica. :A online respository of cybernetic and system principles

* Resilience Alliance. A research group exploring the dynamics of complex adaptaive systems.

* Systems Dynamics Society. Exploring the dynamics of complex feedback systems

* The Cybernetics Society. In the UK; a national society promoting pure and applied cybernetics.

* UKSS. Purpose described as the development and promotion of systems philosophy, theory, methodologies useful for organizations and society.

* International Institute for General Systems Studies (IIGSS) Promotes research and education in systemic thinking

* IIGSS poster - Some Streams of Systemic Thought (in diagramatic form.)

* University of Twente Systems Theory

<small>Major Publications</small>

*Ashby R. (1956), An Introduction to Cybernetics, John Wiley, New York (trad. it. Introduzione alla cibernetica, Einaudi, Torino 1970).

*Ashby R. (1947), Principles of the Self-Organizing Dynamic System, Journal of General Psychology, vol. 37, p. 125.

*Ackoff, R. (1978). The art of problem solving. New York: Wiley.

*Bertalanffy, L. von. (1950). “An Outline of General Systems Theory.” Philosophy of Science, Vol. 1, No. 2.

*Bertalanffy, L. von. (1955). “An Essay on the Relativity of Categories.” Philosophy of Science, Vol. 22, No. 4, pp. 243–263.

*Banathy, B. ( ) Systems Design of Education. Englewood Cliffs: Educational Technology Publications

*Banathy, B. (1992) A Systems View of Education. Englewood Cliffs: Educational Technology Publications. ISBN 0877782458

*Banathy, B (1996) Designing Social Systems in a Changing World New York Plenum

*Bateson, G. (1979). Mind and nature: A necessary unity. New York: Ballantine

*Bausch, Kenneth C. (2001) The Emerging Consensus in Social Systems Theory, Kluwer Academic New Yourk ISBN 0306465396

*Beer S. (1994), Beyond Dispute, New York, Wiley.

*Boulding K (1985) The World as a Total System Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage Publications.

*Boulding K (1956) General Systems Theory as the skeleton of science in Management Science 2:197-208

*Bunge, M. (1979) Treatise on Basic Philosophy, Volume 4. Ontology II A World of Systems. Dordrecht, Netherlands: D. Reidel.

*Capra, F. (1997). The Web of Life-A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems, Anchor ISBN 978-0385476768

*Checkland, P. (1981). Systems thinking, Systems practice. New York: Wiley.

*Churchman, C.W. (1971). The design of inquiring systems. New York: Basic Books.

*Churchman, C.W. (1968). The systems approach. New York: Laurel.

*Corning, P. 1983) The Synergism Hupothesis: A Theory of Progressive Evolution. New York: McGRaw Hill

*Flood RL and Jackson MC (eds) (1991) Critical Systems Thinking: Directed readings Chichester, Wiley

*Jantsch, E. (1980). The Self Organizing Universe. New York: Pergamon.

*Laszlo, E. (1972a). The systems view of the world. The natural philosophy of the new developments in the sciences. New York: George Brazillier. ISBN 0807606367

*Laszlo, E. (1972b). Introduction to systems philosophy. Toward a new paradigm of contemporary thought. San Francisco: Harper.

*Lemkow, A. (1995) The Wholeness Principle: Dynamics of Unity Within Science, Religion & Society. Quest Books, Wheaton.

*Maturana H, Varela F (1980) Autopoiesis and Cognition D. Reidel, Dordrecht, Holland (trad. it. Autopoiesi e cognizione, Marsilio, Venezia 1985).

*Miller JG (1978) Living Systems New York, McGraw Hill Book Company.

*Minati, Gianfranco. Collen, Arne. (1997) Introduction to Systemics Eagleye books. ISBN 0924025069

*Prigogine I, Stengers I (1984) Order out of Chaos Bantarn, New York (trad. it. La nuova alleanza, Einaudi, Torino 1981

*Rapoport A (1968), General System Theory. In David L. Sills (Ed.). The International Encyclopedia of Social Sciences. Volume 15. New York: Macmillan & The Free Press, 452-458.

*Rosen R (1970), Dynamical Systems Theory in Biology. Vol. 1: Stability Theory and its Applications. Wiley, New York.

*Senge, P. (1990). The Fifth Discipline. The art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Doubleday.

*von Bertalanffy L (1968), General System Theory, Braziller, New York (trad. it. Teoria generale dei sistemi, Oscar Mondadori, Milano 2004).

*von Foerster H, Zopf GW, (eds) (1962) Principles of Self-Organization Pergamon, New York

*Wiener N (1948) Cybernetics MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.; ristampato nel 1961 (trad. it. La cibernetica, Mondadori, Milano 1968).

<small>Further reading</small>

Axelrod R (1984) The evolution of cooperation Basic Books, New York.

Axelrod R (1997) The Complexity of Cooperation: Agent-Based Models of Competition and Collaboration. Princeton University Press , Princeton, New Jersey.

Banathy BH (1992) A Systems View of Education; Concepts and Principles for effective Practice. Eductiona Techology Publications, New Jersey. ISBN 0-87778-245-8

Bateson G (1972) Steps to an Ecology of Mind Ballantine, New York (trad. it. Verso un'ecologia della mente, Adelphi, Milano 1976)

Bateson G (1979) Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity Dutton, New York (trad. it. Mente e natura, Adelphi, Milano 1984)

Berger PL and Luckmann T (1966) The Social Constraction of Reality Doubleday and Co.,Garden City, New York (trad. it. La realtà come costruzione sociale,Il Mulino, 1969)

Berrien K (1985) General and Social Systems. New Brunswick: Rudgers University Press

Bocchi G and Ceruti M (eds) (1985), La sfida della complessità, Feltrinelli

Bohm D (1992) Thought as a System New York, Routledge

Briggs JP and Peat FD (1984) Looking Glass Universe: The emerging science of wholeness New York, Touchstone

Butts R and Brown J (eds.) (1989) Constructivism and Science Kluwer, Dordrecht, Holland

Cariani P (1991) Emergence and artificial life, Artificial Life II edito da C. Langton, D. Farmer e S. Rasmussen, Redwood City, CA, Addison-Wesley, pp. 775-797.

Caroll J (ed.), (1956), Language, Thought and Reality: Selected writings of B. L. Whorf. John Wiley & Sons, New York. (trad. it. Linguaggio, Pensiero e Realtà. Boringhieri, Torino, 1971).

Davis S (ed.), (1992), Connectionism: theory and practice Oxford University Press, USA/New York

Drucker PF (1968) The Age of Discontinuity Heinemann, London (trad. it. L’era del discontinuo, Etas Kompass, 1970)

Emery FE (ed.), (1969), Systems Thinking: Selected Readings, Penguin, New York (trad. it. La teoria dei sistemi - Presupposti, caratteristiche e sviluppi del pensiero sistemico, Franco Angeli Editore, Milano 1974).

Flood RL and Carson E (1988) Dealing with Complexity. An Introduction to the Theory and Application of Systems Science. New York, Plenum Press.

Forrest, S., (ed.) (1990), Emergent Computation. Amsterdam: North Holland.

Georgescu-Roegen N (2003) Bioeconomia , Bollati Boringhieri

Huberman BA and Hogg, T (1993) The emergence of computational ccologies, In 1992 Lectures in Complex Systems (L Nadel and DL Stein, eds), SFI Studies in the Sciences of Complexity, Lectures Vol.V, Addision-Wesley, Reading MA, pp. 185-205

Huberman BA and Hogg T (1988), The behavior of computational ecologies. In The Ecology of Computation (BA Huberman, ed.), Amsterdam: Elsevier North Holland, pp. 77-115

Klir G (1969) An Approach to General Systems Theory New York, Van Nostrand Reinhold Company.

Lemkow AF The Wholeness Principle; Dynamics of Unity within Science, Religion & Society Quest Books, Wheat5on, Il.

Maturana H (1988) Reality: The Search for Objectivity or the Quest for a Compelling Argument, Irish Journal of Psychology 9:25-82

Maturana H, Varela F (1973), Autopoiesis: The Organization of the Living, pubblicato originariamente con il titolo De Maquinas y Seres Vivos, Editorial Universitaria, Santiago, Cile 1973 (trad. it. Macchine ed esseri viventi. L:autopoiesi e l'organizzazione biologica, Astrolabio-Ubaldini Editore, Roma 1992)

Maturana H, Varela F (1987) The Tree of Knowledge Shambhala, Boston (trad. it. L:albero della conoscenza, Milano, Garzanti, 1987).

Mikhailov AS, Calenbuhr V (2002) From Cells to Societies Springer Verlag, Berlin.

Minati G, Penna MP, Pessa E (1998), Thermodynamic and logical openness in general systems Systems Research and Behavioral Science 15:131-145.

Minati G (2001), Esseri Collettivi. Apogeo scientifica, (Minati and Pessa, Collective Beings, Springer, revised edition in progress) .

Minati G (2004), Teoria Generale dei Sistemi, Sistemica, Emergenza: un’introduzione, Polimetrica, Milano.

Minati G (2002), Music and systems architecture, In Proceedings of the 5th European Systems Science Congress

Pessa E (1994), Symbolic and subsymbolic models, and their use in systems research, Systems Research 11:23-41

Pessa E, Penna, MP (2000), Manuale di scienza cognitiva, Editori Laterza.

Popper K, Eccles J (1981) The Self and its Brain: An argument for interactionism New York, Springer

Prigogine I (1967) Dìssìpatíve Structures in Chemical Systerns, in Fast Reactions and Primary Processes in Chemical Kinetics a cura di Stig Claesson, Interscience, New York

Prigogine I (1980) From Being to Becoming Freeman, San Francisco (trad. it. Dall'essere al divenire, Einaudi, Torino 1986).

Prigogine I, Glansdorff P (1971), Thermodynamic Theory of Structure, Stability and Fluctuations, Wíley, New York

Sapir E (1929), The status of linguistics as a science, Language 5:207-14.

Serra R, Zanarini G (1990), Complex systems and cognitive processes, Heidelberg: Springer Verlag; (trad. it. Sistemi complessi e processi cognitivi, Calderini, Bologna,1994)

Serra R, Zanarini G, Andretta M, and Compiani M, (1986), Introduction to the physics of complex systems, Oxford: Pergamon Books(trad. it. Introduzione alla fisica dei sistemi complessi, CLEUB, Bologna, 1984)

Sutherland J (1973), A General Systems Philosophy for the Social and Behavioral Sciences, New York, George Braziller Telfener U, Casadio L (2003) Sistemica: voci e percorsi nella complessità, Bollati Boringhieri.

Varela F, Thompson E, Rosch E (1991) The Embodied Mind MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. (trad. it. La via di mezzo della conoscenza, Feltrinelli, Milano 1992).

Varela F (1981) Describing the Logic of the Livíng: The Adequacy and Limitations of the Idea of Autopoiesis, in Autopoiesis: A Theory of Living Organization a cura di Milan Zeleny North Holland, New York; pp. 36-48.

Vitiello, G (2001) My double unveiled. John Benjamins Publishing Company, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

von Bertalanffy L (1950), The Theory of Open Systems in Physics and Biology, Science, vol. 111, pp. 23-29

von Bertalanffy L (1952), Problems of Life. An Evaluation of Modern Biological and Scientific Thought, New York, Harper & Brothers

von Bertalanffy L (1975), Perspectives on General System Theory. Scientific-Philosophical Studies, New York, Braziller

von Foerster H (1981), Observing Systems, Selected Papers of Heinz von Foerster. Seaside, CA: Intersystems.

von Foerster H (2002a) Understanding Systems: Conversations on Epistemology and Ethics New York, Plenum Press.

von Foerster H (2002b) Understanding Understanding: Essays on Cybernetics and Cognition New York, Springer Verlag.

Waldrop MM (1992) Complexity, The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos Simon and Schuster, New York.

Watzlawick P (ed.) (1983), The Invented Reality, New York, Norton

Watzlawick P, Paul JH, Janet H, Jackson DD (1967) Pragmatics of Human Communication: A Study of Interactional Patterns, Pathologies, and Paradoxes. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. (trad. it. Pragmatica della comunicazione umana, Astrolabio, 1971)

Watzlawick P, Weakland JH, Fisch R (1974), Change.- Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution. New York, W. W. Norton & Company. (trad. it. Change - sulla formazione e la soluzione dei problemi, Astrolabio, 1974)

Whitehead AN (1929) Process and Reality Macmillan, New York (trad. ít. Il processo e la realtà. Saggio di cosmologia, V. Bompiani, Milano 1965).

Wiener N (1950), The Human Use of Human Beings, Houghton Mifflin, New York (trad. it. Introduzione alla cibemetica, Boringhieri, Torino 1966).

Wiener N (1961) Cybernetics: Or control and communication in the animal and the machine. Second edition. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Wiener, N. (1967). The human use of human beings. Cybernetics and Society. New York: Avon.

Weiss PA (1970) Life, Order and Understanding. The Graduate Journal, University of Texas, VolVIII, Supplement.

Complexity related book list:

Abrahams, Gardini and Mira. Chaos in Discrete Dynamical Systems (1997 Springer-Verlag)

Adami, Christoph. Introduction to Artificial Life (1998 Telos/Springer-Vertag).

Axelrod, Robert. The Evolution of Cooperation (1984 Penguin)

Badii and Politi. Complexity: Hierarchical structures and scaling in physics (1997 Cambridge University Press).

Bak, Per. How Nature Works - The Science of Self-Organized Criticality (1996 Copernicus).

Bar-Yam, Yaneer. Dynamics of Complex Systems. (1997 Addison-Wesley).

Boden, Margaret (ed). The Philosophy of Artificial Life (1996 OUP).

Capra, Frijof. The Web of Life: A New Synthesis of Mind and Matter. (1996 Harper Collins).

Capra, Frijof, The Hidden Connections (2003 Flamingo)

Casti, John. Complexification: explaining a paradoxical world through the science of surprise (1994 HarperCollins). .

Chaitin, Gregory. Algorithmic Information Theory (? Cambridge University Press)

Cilliers, Paul. Complexity and Postmodernism. (1998 Routledge)..

Cohen and Stewart. The Collapse of Chaos - Discovering Simplicity in a Complex World (1994 Viking).

Combs, Alan. The Rdience of Being: Complexity, Chaos and the Evolution of Consciousness (1995 Floris Books)

Coveney and Highfield. Frontiers of Complexity (1995 Fawcett Columbine).

Eigen, Manfred. The Self Organization of Matter (?)

Eigen and Schuster. The Hypercycle: A principle of natural self-organization (1979 Springer)

Emmeche, Claus. The Garden in the Machine: The Emerging Science of Artificial Life (1994 Princeton).

Epstein, Joshua M. Epstein and Axtell Robeert, Growing Artificial Societies: Social Science from the Bottom Up (1996 MIT Press)

Forrest, Stephanie (ed). Emergent Computation: Self-organising, Collective and Cooperative Phenomena in Natural & Artifical Computings Networks (1991 MIT)

Gell-Mann, Murray. Quark and the Jaguar - Adventures in the simple and the complex (1994 Little, Brown & Company).

Gleick, James. Chaos - Making a New Science (1987 Cardinal).

Goldstein, Jacobi & Yovits (Eds.). Self-Organizing Systems (1962 Spartan)

Goodwin, Brian. How the Leopard Changed Its Spots: The Evolution of Complexity (1994 Weidenfield & Nicholson).

Holland, John. Adaptation in Natural and Artificial Systems: An Introductory Analysis with applications to Biology, Control & AI (1992 MIT Press)

Holland, John. Emergence - From Chaos to Order (1998 Helix Books).

Holland, John. Hidden Order - How adaptation builds complexity (1995 Addison Wesley).

Johnson, Steven. Emergence (2001 Penguin).

Kauffman, Stuart. At Home in the Universe - The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity (1995 OUP).

Kauffman, Stuart. The Origins of Order - Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution (1993 OUP).

Kelly, Kevin. Out of Control - The New Biology of Machines (1994 Addison Wesley).

Kelso, Scott. Dynamic Patterns: The Self-Organisation of Brain and Behaviour (1995 MIT Press)

Kohonen, Teuvo. Self-Organization and Associative Memory (1984 Springer-Verlag)

Kohonen, Teuvo. Self-Organizing Maps: Springer Series in Information Sciences, Vol. 30 (1995 Springer)

Langton, Christopher (ed.). Artificial Life - Proceedings of the first ALife conference at Santa Fe (1989 Addison Wesley).

Levy, Steven. Artificial Life - The Quest for a New Creation (1992 Jonathan Cape).

Lewin, Roger. Complexity - Life at the Edge of Chaos (1993 Macmillan).

Mandelbrot, Benoit. The Fractal Geometry of Nature (1983 Freeman).

Mullin, Tom (ed.) The Nature of Chaos (1993 Oxford Science Publications)

Nicolis and Prigogine. Self-Organization in Non-Equilibrium Systems (1977 Wiley)

Nicolis and Prigogine. Exploring Complexity (1989 Freeman).

Peak, David and Frame, Richard. Chaos Under Control (1994 Freeman)

Pribram K.H. (ed). Origins: Brain and Self-organization (1994 Lawrence Ealbaum)

Prigogine & Stengers. Order out of Chaos (1985 Flamingo).

Roetzheim, William. Why Things Are: How Complexity Theory Answers Life's Toughest Questions (2007 Level 4 Press)

Schroeder, Manfred. Fractals, Chaos, Power Laws - Minutes from an Infinite Paradise (1991 Freeman & Co.).


Sprott, Clint. Strange Attractors: Creating Patterns in Chaos (? M&T Books).

Stewart, Ian. Does God Play Dice: The New Mathematics of Chaos (1990 Penguin)

Stewart and Cohen. Figments of Reality: The Evolution of the Curious Mind. (1997 Cambridge University Press).

von Neumann, John. Theory of Self Reproducing Automata (1966 Univ.Illinois)

Waldrop, Mitchell. Complexity - The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos (1992 Viking).

Ward, Mark. Universality: The Underlying Theory behind Life, the Universe and Everything (2002 Pan).

Wolfram, Stephen. Cellular Automata and Complexity: Collected Papers, (1994 Addison-Wesley).



Bela H Banathy


In my earlier work, I constructed three systems models; a systems-environment model, a functions/structure model, and a process model; all of which are applicable to understanding and working with social systems. I prefer to call these models “lenses.” As I use the systems-environment lens, I can see and understand relational arrangements and dynamics between the system and its context. The functions/structure lens helps me to see the system at a given moment in time. I understand what it is; it projects a snapshot of the system. The third lens shows how motion: the behavior of the system through time. None of these lenses give me a whole picture of the system, Only as I integrate the three images can I capture a comprehensive view – the wholeness of the system. The process of using the lenses and describing a system provides the first experience of internalization and application of the systems view.

At this stage we transform the general models into the context to a specific social systems. This transformation enables us to portray, characterize and use social/societal entities and systems and work with them relatively in four complementary domains of organizational inquiry. These process domains are:

The ANALYSIS and DESCRIPTION of social systems, by the application of the three models presented above (The systems environment, the functions and the process models) SYSTEMS DESIGN, conducting design inquiry with the us of design models, methods, and tools appropriate to social systems and the specific type of system chosen. IMPLEMENTATION of the design by SYSTEMS DEVELOPMENT and the INSTITUTIONALIZATION of the new system. SYSTEMS MANAGEMENT, the management of systems operations, and the management of change.

systems inquiry BB In summary, By OBSERVING various types of systems and studying their behavior, we can recognize characteristics that are common to all systems. Once we have identified and described a set of concepts that are common to the systems, and observed and discovered among some of them certain relationships, we can construct from them general systems PRINCIPLES. Thus, a systems principles emerges from an interaction/integration of related concepts. Next we are in the position to look for interrelations among principles and organize related principles in to certain conceptual schemes we call SYSTEMS MODELS. This process of starting from OBSERVATION and arriving at the CONSTRUCTION of systems models constitutes the first stage of developing a systems view.–>

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