An Introduction to General Systems Thinking (Silver Anniversary Edition)

Category: Programming
Author: Gerald M. Weinberg
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by bordercases   2018-04-01
The box-and-arrows paradigm for systems, built in the 50s and enjoying popularity briefly in the 80s, is overrated, and has been outmoded by the likes of complexity theory. This is due to the fact that box-and-arrows systems like those made by Club of Rome to predict civilizational collapse carry strong assumptions as to the nature and structure of underlying variables and as such become very brittle as the size of the system scales. The norm is not the closed-loop circuit models that initially inspired systems thinking, but open-loop energetic models where any structural element is more like a rarified pattern than an ontological atom.

The result is a discipline that has transformed into managing uncertain outcomes in large heterogeneous models, i.e. complexity theory, rather than reducing everything to balls-and-sticks. Meadows was famous for devising "12 basic places to intervene in a system", nowadays the focus is on hedging bets adequately such that interventions don't catastrophically fuck up.

That said, some of the basic tooling is still flexible enough for basic business problems and some of the old gems are able to explain important concepts found in other fields without getting bogged down in the math.

https://www.amazon.com/Early-Retirement-Extreme-Philosophica... is my favourite, it's not about retirement, it's about using systems thinking to devise a robust lifestyle.

https://www.amazon.com/Introduction-General-Systems-Thinking... will make a good complement to Meadows and should give you a calculus to rigorously think of systems with.

https://www.amazon.com/Introduction-Cybernetics-W-Ross-Ashby... for its explanation on entropy, I mean requisite diversity, which will you give you an approximate mental quantity of how "powerful" any given system is.

https://www.amazon.com/Sciences-Artificial-Herbert-Simon/dp/... and https://www.amazon.com/Design-Rules-Vol-Power-Modularity/dp/... I haven't read either of these, but Herb Simon is extremely influential and has great thoughts on the notion of system hierarchies (nearly-decomposable systems is a great concept for design). The second book is about the properties of modular systems, which will help grok the reasoning behind a lot of refactoring techniques.

Good luck.

by ismail   2018-04-01
The answer below assumes the following:

- You are talking about the application of general systems theory. https://www.amazon.com/Systems-Thinking-Creative-Holism-Mana...

- For general systems theory: An Introduction to General Systems Thinking by Gerald M. Weinberg https://www.amazon.com/Introduction-General-Systems-Thinking...

- For systems thinking and the learning organization:

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization by Peter Senge https://www.amazon.com/Fifth-Discipline-Practice-Learning-Or...

- There is a great course that covers soft systems methodology, specifically to solve social problems: https://www.plusacumen.org/courses/systems-practice

- Habits of a systems thinker: https://www.watersfoundation.org/systems-thinking-tools-and-...

- Systems thinking resources: http://donellameadows.org/systems-thinking-resources/

* Update added additional resources.

by danek   2017-08-19
This gives a great perspective on complexity. Reminds me a lot of the book An Introduction to General Systems Thinking by Jerry Weinberg. https://www.amazon.com/Introduction-General-Systems-Thinking...