Premise: We exist in Systems. We may not necessarily be aware of them, but everything we perceive works in systems. In part, what this means is that all things alive or otherwise are predisposed to organise themselves in some manner. While as beings, we are capable of creating systems consciously as well. The question is whether we perceive this enough, for it to be of any significance in our everyday lives or not.
I think at this point I should clarify that this is a rabbit hole and the intention is very much to go down it.
Systems are everywhere. Everything is in systems. They are a significant part of our daily lives. All human activities are a part of some system — manmade or natural. Usually, a multiple of both. The systems we are born into, like economic, social, geopolitical, can greatly influence our lives and the choices we make.
So, what is a system?
“A system is a set of things — people, cells, molecules, or whatever — interconnected in such a way that they produce their own pattern of behaviour over time.” — Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
Systems exist at all scales. There are macrosystems and microsystems. There are systems within systems — think climate and weather. And, all systems are a part of a single continuum. It is up to us to set a limit to them according to context. To understand systems we must think in a nonlinear, nonbinary, dynamic way.
Although the word ‘system’ sounds neat and clinical, the real-word systems are never neat. At their best, they are rather chaotic, beautiful and endlessly interesting — think the jungles and their micro-ecosystems. And while we understand them and understand them to a great extent, we can never fully understand them. Even if we try really hard. That is why they can be very amusing as well. Our smartest computers still struggle to build decent climate models. Whatever scientific understanding we may develop is just a version of the actuality.
The reason we should care about Systems is that even its basic understanding can help us make significantly better decisions in our work, society and everyday lives. It is in our instinct to understand systems behaviour, as we are one. It helps us see better, discern the choice we have while interacting with the external world.
For instance, sometimes, the dominant system can make us think that it is the only or the ultimate system, and all the choices available to us exist only within this system — like educational systems or regional culture. It is because an important behavioural aspect of any system is to ensure its own existence and perpetuation. Thus understanding systems or even just actively knowing they exist helps us makes the distinction between true choices and pseudo or default ones, or at the least make us aware that there can be other choices available if we are willing to look beyond the preset boundaries, which can at times seem like the ultimate ones because of the dominant system reinforcing itself on to us.
Of course, all of this is rather biased, grossly oversimplified and not even remotely conclusive. However, it is an exploration to understand the world we function in a little better, perhaps clearer. It is an effort to think beyond the predominant linear-binary mindset that seems to have overwhelmed the instincts we were born with.
“The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite. Life is not an illogicality, yet it is a trap for logicians. It looks just a little more mathematical and regular than it is.” — G.K. Chesterton, 20th century writer