Saturday, April 5, 2014

One person's definition: 12 Living Systems Principles.

My, how the enterprise has grown.

When I began my work and my thinking about systems, the concept was radical enough I felt a like a bit of a revolutionary. Now we have someone like Linda Booth Sweeney, Harvard University Graduate School of Education, who is part of a trend of turning it into a technology.

In my professional career I can personally recount the history of the field. I'm reminded somehow of the old saw, Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. The development of the species is reflected in the development of a single organism.

Ms Sweeney's work is a serious effort at bringing systems thinking to the education of our children and young people. With deep academic credentials she has prepared materials for popular consumption by an audience of professional K-12 educators, and clearly has support of a publishing company to market and present her materials.


Here's Ms Sweeney's understanding of the 12 Principles of Living Systems. Her descriptions on this website imply a target audience with no familiarity with the concept. I've edited here for grammar, spelling, and to suit my purposes.
Interdependence: A relationship of mutual influence.
System Integrity: Presence of required elements and processes.
Biodiversity: Variety, complexity, and abundance of elements.
Cooperation and Partnership: Exchange of energy and resources between elements.
Rightness of Size: Relative proportions of elements within their ecosystem.
Living Cycles: Circular and self-repeating processes providing nourishment and growth.
Waste = Food: One element's output becomes another element's input.
Feedback: Circular processes that amplify change or foster stability.
Nonlinearity: A disproportionate relationship between cause and effect..
Emergent Properties: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts..
Flux: The movement of energy, matter and information.
The Commons: Shared resources.
In the fine print she adds other elements. Without description, she lists these as
  • autopoesis
  • cognition and learning
  • networks
  • the first and second law of thermodynamics
  • stocks and flows
  • exponential growth
  • carrying capacity
  • ecological footprint.
This is not a bad attempt here at reducing a complex body of research into a single online page. Her work, part of a cooperative effort with the MIT Sloan School of Management, is well-funded. I have no doubt I will find a foundation of substantial academic publications, and these will provide an excellent source for my continuing research and thinking.

Perhaps the matter is addressed under autopoesis, but I don't see any specific reference to what I consider the Prime Directive of systems: Preserve and protect your own integrity and existence. I'm also very interested  in investigating her treatment of Open vs Closed Systems, a key element in my own modeling of systems processes.

There are fun avenues opening up, and I take a deep personal satisfaction in recognizing my early contributions in an important field.

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