Introduction to Systems

A brief introduction to Systems and System modification.

A Systems Perspective

A system is a set of entities, real or abstract, comprising a whole where each component interacts with or is related to the other components. Systems are ubiquitous. They encompass all scales. They pervade our lives. We are all part of economic, cultural, and political systems. Our brain is a system. Our cells are systems. The ecology and the earth itself is a system.

There have been many exciting breakthroughs in the understanding of systems in the last 40 years. One of the most important breakthroughs is the realization that most systems are NOT at equilibrium. They are very dynamic and adaptive. In fact, if systems are too stable, they are essentially dead. Another important finding is that at an abstract level, systems have similar processes and structures that are independent of the domain of the system. For example, ant colonies, the human brain, and economic systems all have emergent behavior at a system level that does not seem to have much connection with what is happening at the level of ants, neurons or individuals. Since systems have similar processes and structures, studying general systems theory will help us develop and improve the systems around us.

System improvement is leverage for improving the world. We all belong to economic, political, social, and cultural systems. If we improve the systems that we are involved in, it improves life for everyone affected by the system. A small change can have a very large impact.