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Discernible macrobehaviours of a system. (Avoiding teleological thinking.)

Started by droqen, February 18, 2023, 10:55:11 AM

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Emergence - Discernible macrobehaviour

Thinking in Systems - defines systems in part as things that have a "function" or "purpose", same idea as Emergence's 'discernible macrobehaviour.'

I like the phrase given in Emergence even though it's a mouthful because it avoids ascribing intentionality to systems.


~ Thinking in Systems, page 11 (the first page of the first chapter, "THE BASICS.") and page 15

Quote. . . a system must consist of three kinds of things: elements, interconnections, and a function or purpose.

A football team['s purpose may be] to win games, or have fun, or get exercise, or make millions of dollars, or all of the above. . . .

System purposes need not be human purposes and are not necessarily those intended by any single actor within the system. . . . the purposes of subunits may add up to an overall behavior that no one wants.


~ Emergence, page 19

Quotemultiple agents dynamically interacting in multiple ways, following local rules and oblivious to any higher-level instructions . . . [resulting] in some kind of discernible macrobehaviour


The definitions of 'purpose' and 'function' both in some cases include intent. I am personally more amenable to the phrase "discernible macrobehaviour" because it places the onus on the observer (the "discerner"), although strictly speaking a system with a not-presently-discernible macrobehaviour is still a system... Just one we cannot identify yet.

Is there a more neutral word?


Rather than function or purpose, which imply intent on the part of the thing-itself or its creator... Rather than discernible macrobehaviour, which implies subjectivity... What is the name for the consequence which emerges, the result which gives the system its place in the larger system?

Oh, of course. Allow me to refine Meadows' definition of a system:

. . . a system must consist of three kinds of things: elements, intraconnections (between elements within the system), and interconnections (between this system and elements or systems outside).


Rather than focus on output, result, consequence, function, purpose, I much prefer this perspective: We look out at the larger system(s) of which this system is a part and ask, "What outside connections does this system have with the larger world of systems?"


(9 KB) fig. 1, a system is elements, interconnections, and a function or purpose

In this diagram we take a system (a large whole unbroken black circle) and see it as a collection of three types of things -
elements (five small whole unbroken black circles)
interconnections (seven red lines connecting some elements to others)
a function or purpose (a pink line projecting outwards from the system)
. . . there is also a boundary (a dotted grey line indicating where the large whole unbroken black circle once was)

Imagine zooming in, or out. This system is an element in a larger system; the elements are themselves systems; interconnections, seen up close, are functions or purposes; functions or purposes, seen from afar, are interconnections.

Rather than three types of things, a system is only two: elements; and connections, which may be internal connections or external connections.

See ~ SYNAPSE: Self sufficient subsystems, and evolution. especially the ~ Hierarchies fable