Comments on: International crises and the value of Global System Dynamics Wed, 16 Nov 2016 01:37:11 +0000 hourly 1 By: KevinPorter Thu, 05 Aug 2010 23:04:07 +0000 Hear, hear, James Greyson! I enjoyed your point regarding “wet-ware” first. You reminded me of a story Dr. Thomas Hunt Morgan told when he explained why he banned the use of Friden Calculators (early computers) from the Biology Department at Caltech. He said, “Well, I am like a guy who is prospecting for gold along the banks of the Sacramento River in 1849. With a little intelligence, I can reach down and pick up big nuggets of gold. And as long as I can do that, I’m not going to let any people in my department waste scarce resources in placer mining.” System Dynamics seems to be in the same fortunate position today.

Three cheers for System Dynamics indeed!

By: jamesgreyson Thu, 24 Jun 2010 12:17:29 +0000 Three cheers for global systems dynamics! Systems thinking is really needed for a serious effort at resolving multiple interconnected global problems. Looking back, we can see that the efforts of past decades, using fragmented bit-at-a-time thinking, never stood a chance at turning things around.

The language of complex systems can be, well, complex. If it helps, I think of systems dynamics as what’s actually happening in the real world systems that we’re all part of. Systems thinking is a conscious attempt to perceive and understand what’s happening as a whole, without carving it up into the usual ‘manageable’ chunks. Systems modelling comes when we try to track what’s happening either at the level of systemic patterns or of quantitative data. All of this can be aimed at any point along the policy-making ‘river’ from upstream paradigm-defining worldviews to downstream ‘gosh, not another crisis!’.

Systems analysis (a general term for all of the above) has traditionally been arcane, involving brilliant minds, white coats and ever-more-powerful computers. The language didn’t fit within departmental attention spans and the funding didn’t include public dialogue. So of course no-one ever heard about it and, not coincidentally, the world’s problems worsened. It’s a joy to see some policy people (on the European stage) talking about systems and groups such as Lord Hunt’s Global Systems Dynamics coalescing.

This is a vital initiative. It offers a mindset that can get us all out of ‘the age of austerity’, so society should take care not to throw this baby out with the budgeting bath-water. For its part, the systems community can endeavour to remember that:
• models can make sense both on the back of an envelope and on-screen.
• we need policies that look upstream at patterns as well as downstream at complexity.
• we must rely firstly on our mental ‘wet-ware’ and only then on high-tech hardware.
• there must be genuine rich dialogue not just ticked-the-box consultation.

Together we can do more than map the future, we can invent it and make it happen!