Lesson Three: Systems

A concept analysis of systems:

  1. Symbol variants: System, systemic, systematic, systematize, unsystematic.
  2. Base: Scientific/humanistic origin, 20th century, but applied here to a Restored Gospel (LDS) setting.
  3. Etymology: L. systema, fr. Gr. synistanae, to place together; fr. Gr. ~, with, and histanai, to place.
  4. Dictionary: Webster’s New Collegiate
    1. Definition: an assemblage of objects united in some form of regular interaction or interdependence; an organized whole.
  5. Examples in base: The solar system. The human nervous system. The American system of government. Systematic theology. The double-entry accounting system.
  6. Correlative concepts:
    1. Genus:                   Relationships
    2. Constituents:       Environment, boundaries, structure, function, input, output
    3. Prerequisites:      Two or more existing things.
    4. Consequences:     n/a
    5. Similar:                 Organization, group, complex, machine, layout, scheme, plan
    6. Contrary:              Chaos, jumble, collection, random
    7. Perfection:           Closed system
    8. Opposite:             Unorganized
    9. Complement:      Disorganized
    10. Counterfeit:         Facade (The appearance of being a well-organized system.)
    11. Levels:
      1. Celestial:        Being in an order presided over by our Father.
      2. Terrestrial:     Presiding: The Son.
      3. Telestial:         Presiding: The Holy Ghost.
      4. Perdition:       Presiding: Satan.
  1. Key Questions:
    1. How are systems created? They are the result of intelligent action.
    2. How are systems destroyed? By entropy and evil, the “natural” forces.
    3. What is a closed system? A system that has or needs no environment.
    4. What is a system “in control”? One which does all and only that which its agent- steward commands it to do.
    5. Is there a closed system? The universe (including God) may be one.
  1. Formulated concept: A system is some set of objects related in some manner which makes it convenient to consider the set as a whole. All of the systems humans deal with are imaginary systems. Humans believe that some of their systems represent reality, such as the solar system, and some do not, such as the story of Alice in Wonderland.
  1. Positive example: The human body is a system composed of numerous subsystems.
  2. Negative example: (There are no negative examples. Everything which can be thought of can be construed as a system or part of a system, for everything which exists is related to everything else which exists. But a ticking clock is a better example of a well-organized whole, or system, than is a pile of sand, though the latter is also a system.)
  3. What difference should a knowledge of systems thinking make to my life?
    1. Heart: It could encourage me to be true to my covenants and principles, because I could see all of my decisions as needing to be systematic (intelligent).
    2. Mind: I could master the techniques of systems thinking.
    3. Strength: I could be more systematic in the way I treat and use my body.
    4. Might: I could create a celestial order in my stewardship.

What kinds of systems do humans use to think about the universe?

An initial taxonomy relates to the input of the environment.

  1. Open systems are those which have some input from or output to an environment.
  2. Closed systems are those which have no exchange with their environment. (Some systems which have very little exchange are analyzed as closed systems by simplification for purposes of convenience.)

Another taxonomy of systems is created by emphasizing change.

  1. Systems that do not change appreciably over a given time period are known as static systems. Example: A map is a static system.
  2. Systems which do change or function are known as dynamic systems. Example: A living orchid plant is a dynamic system.
  3. Systems in which the changes are at least in part due to intelligent (goal setting and seeking) behavior are known as agent systems. Example: A human being is an agent system.

All systems have a static aspect (a structure). All agent systems have static structure and a dynamic system in addition to the agent aspect.

A third taxonomy of systems is created by emphasizing subject matter.

  1. Mechanical systems are those being analyzed according to structure and force applications. They can be analyzed as closed systems with considerable success. Their principal opposition is change of structure (wear and tear). Example: A bicycle.
  2. Biological systems are those systems which have as their main feature the ability of units to reproduce their own kind. They are best analyzed as open systems which achieve homeostasis (steady state) with their environment. Their principal opposition is anything which destroys that homeostasis to bring death.
  3. Intellectual systems are concept systems in a human mind as represented in some symbolic form for communication purposes. The symbolic manifestations of such systems tend to be used as closed systems. The opposition to such systems is that they tend to be ignored or lost.
  4. Social systems are organizations of people who cooperate to operate and perpetuate the system. These systems tend to be open, with the principal opposition to each being rival social systems. Example: The LDS Church.

A final dichotomy relates to how men view the systems they create.

  1. Real systems are those which the person creating or using them believes actually characterize the universe.
  2. Imaginary systems are those which the person creating or using them understands to be a creative expression of his own mind and not necessarily to be characteristic of the real universe.

There is but one real system known to man: the universe. Man can only vaguely characterize the universe in its entirety, which is its reality. So we spend our time analyzing and characterizing subsystems of the universe to attempt to shed light on the nature of the whole.

Thus all of the subsystems men deal with are fictional abstractions (constructs) by which we attempt to guess at reality.

And thus the line between real and imaginary systems is very thin, often non-existent. One mark of intelligence is to be able to draw that line accurately.

Thus reality is really imaginary and all imaginary systems really exist in someone’s mind.

What are the types of systems thinking?

There are four basic types of systems thinking: systems analysis, systems design, systems operation, systems evaluation.

  1. Systems analysis is the description of some real subsystem of the universe in systems thinking categories. Example: Analysis of an automobile.
  2. Systems design is the specification of the system parameters of some new thing which a person has imagined. Example: The design of a home one hopes to build.
  3. Systems operation is the functional use of some real system paying special attention to the system parameters. Example: Driving an automobile.
  4. Systems evaluation is the comparison of one system either with some ideal system or with some other real system, comparing them as to some standard such as effectiveness or efficiency. Example: Is it better to use a typewriter or a computer to write a paper?

What are the basic parameters of systems thinking?

Parameters of static systems:

  1. System boundaries are the edges of the subsystem selected for analysis.
  2. System environment is everything outside the system boundaries.
  3. System parts are all things within the system boundaries.

Example:    An automobile has boundaries, which are its tangible surfaces. It has an environment, which is everything outside its tangible surfaces but including the air which freely circulates among its parts. And it has parts, which are all the pieces of material out of which it was built.

Parameters of dynamic systems in addition to the static parameters:

  1. System function is the internal operations of the static parts.
  2. System input is the input of the environment to the system.
  3. System output is the output of the system to the environment.
  4. System opposition is whatever causes the functioning of the system to break down, to deteriorate.

Example:    An automobile functions by burning fuel to produce power to turn the wheels to provide locomotion. The system input (in part) is fuel and air. The system output (in part) is exhaust fumes and noise, and power turning of the wheels. The opposition is (in part) bad roads and bad driving, which produce wear and tear.

Parameters of agent systems in addition to those of static and dynamic systems.

  1. Agent goals are the desires, the objectives of, the agent.
  2. Agent resources are the wherewith by which the agent could achieve goals.
  3. Agent strategy is the overall plan of the agent to achieve a goal.
  4. Agent tactics are the specific actions to be taken to implement the agent strategy.
  5. Agent work is the actions of the agent in implementing strategy and tactics.
  6. Agent assessment is the observations of the agent to see if and when the goal has been reached.
  7. Agent evaluation is the decision of the agent as to whether or not attaining the goal was worthwhile or not, once having attained it.

(Note: Agent goals is an example of systems analysis: What do I with it? Agent resources, strategy and tactics are examples of systems design. Agent work and assessment are examples of systems operation. And of course Agent evaluation is an example of systems evaluation.

Example:    A young man desires to gain the hand of a young lady in marriage (goal). He decides to impress her (strategy) by an unusual date (tactic). He arranges and executes the date (work), gains her acceptance and marries her (assessment), then tries to decide if he did the right thing (evaluation). (In a Restored Gospel frame the answer to the evaluation is not determined by the eventual outcome but by how he performed steps 8 through

What is it essential to know about systems analysis?

Reality is usually too complex to deal with, so we simplify it. We try to retain all the essential features of our subject and eliminate only unnecessary aspects, but we don’t always succeed in doing that. The parameters of systems thinking listed above are an attempt to provide a standard for the minimum essential features which must be specified to describe a system successfully.

Systems analysis is the attempt to capture the essential features of some existing (real) object of attention and curiosity in this world in order better to understand and/or control it.

There is usually one key factor in any systems analysis. As one answers the questions to find the basic parameters, one should ask also, what is the real key to control, to using this system successfully.

Examples: What is the key factor in systems analysis of an automobile?

  • Of a political system?
  • Of a person?
  • Of a theology?

Question: What advantage does systems analysis have over ordinary attempts to understand?

What is it essential to know about systems design?

Reality sometimes does not have all of the “things” we feel we need. We may desire houses, automobiles, fruits and vegetables, clothing, honors, social organizations, and works of art, all of a sort which do not exist. So we wax creative and design new things.

Systems design is the planning of new things to meet our human desires and needs.

The key factor in systems design is effectiveness. Will the thing created fill the need for which it was created? The second factor is efficiency. Was this creation done with a minimum of cost? Is there a better way?

Most systems design is a slight modification on an old pattern. Most changes proceed in small increments. Few are cataclysmic.

Systems design and creativity are the same thing. Systems design is an artistic undertaking. One can increase his skill at systems design by:

  1. Thinking of alternatives to every human creation one observes.
  2. Experiencing a wide range of cultures and achievements within cultures.
  3. Constantly looking for new ways to apply old ideas.
  4. Designing and implementing new systems, then evaluating them and seeking for better solutions.

Creativity or artistic design is essentially a spiritual matter.

Question: What distinguishes systems design from ordinary planning?

What is it essential to know about systems operation?

Reality usually needs some minor rearranging to fill our human needs. These rearrangements we achieve by using the structures and powers in our control. Thus we use our legs to change our location, we use a broom to sweep the floor, we use a pair of scissors to cut hair, we use a lathe to reduce the diameter of a spindle, etc.

Systems operation is intelligent human action. All goal-oriented action is systems operation, for in all of such doing, we are systems using other systems to implement desired systems.

The keys to systems operation are again effectiveness and efficiency, in that order.

Systems operation is the skill of doing anything that is consciously and deliberately pursued.

Systems analysis is a helpful preface to successful systems operation. One can drive an automobile without understanding how it works, but one will do better if one does understand the intricacies of the machine.

Question:   Why is self-control necessary to systems control?

What is it important to know about systems evaluation?

Some persons pretend there is no good and bad, no righteousness or sin. But without such judgments, no person could attain to his or her desires. We must distinguish between good and bad (that which will lead to our goal or will take us away from it) and some persons want to and can distinguish between good and evil (that which makes the doer righteous or that which makes the doer evil). Not to make such evaluations is to step backwards from being human and intelligent.

Systems evaluation is always a comparison of one system (the one being evaluated) with another system (the one being used as a standard), real or ideal, and judging the system being evaluated to be adequate or not, m comparison with the system being used as a standard, according to the desires of the evaluator.

Example of evaluation: One has a desire to have a piece of wood of just the right dimensions to fill a hole. So one measures the dimensions of the hole (this sets up the standard to be met). Then one uses those dimensions to measure pieces of wood until one finds one that either fits those dimensions or can be shaped to those dimensions to satisfy the need. The wood is evaluated as adequate if it either fits the dimensions or fills the hole adequately.

The key to evaluation is the standard of value being used. Human beings compare ideal standards against each other, then pick the one that they believe most suits their desires. Then they use the ideal standard to judge real systems.

Evaluation is not measurement (assessment). Measurement is the determination that a desired quantity exists or not. Evaluation is the determination that a desired quality exists or not.

Example: One measures to see if his gas tank is full.

One evaluates to see if the gasoline performs as it should.

The ultimate evaluation is comparison of how one thing actually works in the real world as compared with another. Ideal systems can only be evaluated theoretically, for they are only theoretical systems.

Every evaluation measures the evaluator as much as the thing being evaluated. This is because the evaluator must select the standard of evaluation, thereby revealing or evaluating himself.

Question:   Why is snap judgment usually a bad form of evaluation?

Living the Restored Gospel successfully is an application of good systems thinking.

Systems analysis reveals to the honest observer that his own life is in need of repair.

Systems design leads one to form a hypothesis as to how to do better.

Systems operation is the process of implementing the new plan to try to do better.

Systems evaluation is the opportunity of an intelligent person to see if his new plan is actually any better than the old one.

Where does the Restored Gospel come in? Any person who is already engaged in this process of trying to do better will welcome the Restored Gospel opportunity to receive divine assistance to analyze, plan, operate and evaluate. As the Holy Spirit touches a mortal’s life, it tells him that he needs to repent, and that only as he puts his trust in Jesus Christ unto baptism by proper authority can he fulfill his potential as a son of God. Repentance, baptism, and the receiving and obeying of the Holy Ghost are the systems operations or work he must do. Having been faithful, he can then compare his new self with his former self by systems evaluation to see if he is really any better off.

Does understanding systems thinking help a person to live the Gospel any better than one could without that understanding? No, for the Holy Spirit brings one all one needs to live the Gospel. But systems thinking will help one to understand and to explain the process of living the Gospel better than one can without it. If a person is humble and desires understanding of the ways of the Lord, systems thinking will help him to form those questions he must ask about the ways of God which must be answered for understanding to grow.

Question: Is systems thinking of equal value to evil as well as to good persons?

What are the laws/rules of systems?

The following laws and rules apply to all systems and are therefore useful in every context:

  1. Causation: There is a cause (input) for every change in a system. There is an explanation for everything.

Application: There are no “accidents.”

  1. Sufficient reason: Every change is caused by something great enough to have the effect observed.

Application: For every output there must be a larger input. There is no free lunch.

  1. Entropy: Energy concentrations in a physical system tend to dissipate.

Application: Things of this world tend to cool down, wear out, break up.

  1. Prediction in a system is sure only if the system is in complete control.

Application: The only things we humans completely control and therefore can completely predict are our own personal choices.

  1. Law of social systems: No open social system of this world can be perfected.

Application: If you take in everyone or admit all comers, your system will always be evil because there are always people who will choose evil. A marriage can be perfected because it can become a closed system (so far as input is concerned) in the New and Everlasting Covenant.

  1. Focus of energy at the right time and place is the key to power in dynamic systems.

Application: The spark must jump at just the right time in an internal combustion engine. There is a tide in the affairs of men that taken at the crest leads on to victory…” “Strike while the iron is hot.”

Systems Analysis Format

Target system: [Focus of concern for an analysis]
Example:    An automobile

Static analysis: [System seen as a spatial configuration only)
Example:    Automobile sitting still, engine off.

System boundaries: [What are the edges of the system?]
Example:    Tangible boundaries of body, engine, etc.

System environment: [What other subsystems are close by?]
Example:    Air, highway, rainstorm, countryside.

System parts: [What are the important internal parts?]
Example:    Body parts, seats, controls, drive train.

Dynamic: [Target system seen as temporal (moving, functioning)]
Example:    Automobile being driven down a highway.

System function: [How the system parts work together.]
Example:    Explosions in engine turn shaft, gears, rear wheels, propel automobile.

System input: [What the environment feeds into the system.]
Example:    Air, gasoline, heat.

System output: [What the system puts out into the environment.]
Example:    Motion of automobile, exhaust, dripping oil.

System opposition: [Factors which destroy the system and its functioning.]
Example:    Deep water on highway, collision with another automobile, etc.

Agent:      [Target system seen as an agent or controlled by an agent.]
Example:    You

Agent goal(s): [What the agent desires at the moment.]
Example:    You wish to go downtown.

Agent resources: [What can the agent call upon or use to achieve the desired goal?]
Example:    You have permission to use the family automobile, but it is out of gasoline. But you have money and put gasoline in.

Agent strategy: [What is the agent’s overall plan to achieve the goal?]
Example:    You plan to use the freeway.

Agent tactics: [What specific things will the agent do to   carry out the strategy?]
Example:    You plan to drive very carefully and to avoid rush hour.

Agent work [How much energy, ability, intelligence and persistence does the agent apply in employing the chosen strategy and tactics?]
Example:    You do drive carefully, and pay attention to where you are at all times.

Agent assessment: [How close is the agent to attaining the goal?]
Example:    You see the store which you wish to patronize [and park close by].

Agent evaluation: [What did attaining the goal cost the agent? Was the attainment worth the cost?]
Example:    They are out of what you wanted, so the trip was wasted. Ouel dommage!

Key Factor: [Which system factor is the most influential one, the one which gives the operator of the system the greatest power and control?]
Example:      Ignition key.

(Note: To do a systems analysis, copy the section below from this page.)

Systems Analysis Format

Target system:

Static analysis:
System boundaries:
System environment:
System parts:

Dynamic analysis:
System function:
System input:
System output:
System opposition:

Agent analysis:
Agent goal(s):
Agent resources:
Agent strategy:
Agent tactics:
Agent work:
Agent assessment:
Agent evaluation:

Key Factor:

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