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Primer 2.0

*General Orientations of Systems Science A theoretical perspective: by Eberhard Umbach

*Warfield work program of complexity This is a special project/application/excerptation

*Systeming at a glance

Presidential Address 1996 by Ervin Laszlo

“We have arrived at a watershed in the history of humanity. Given current trends in demography, resource consumption, militarization, lifestyle and wealth-disparities, and the degeneration of the environment, our future on this planet is no longer assured. While on the one hand we could pave the way toward a system of social, economic, and political organization that is peaceful and capable of ensuring an adequate level of sustainability of the human Iife-supporting environment, on the other we could find ourselves on a descending path toward growing social, political and environmental crises and possibly catastrophes. The choice at this point of bifurcation is still open. It merits further reflection.”

A General Principle of Systems in general

“A family of meaningful relationships

among the members

interacting as a whole (…)”


A Nation at Risk by Bela H. Banathy

“While an unchanging dominant majority is perpetually rehearsing its own defeat, fresh challenges are evoking fresh creative responses from newly recruited minorities, which proclaims their own creative power by rising, each time, to the occasion.” Arnold Toynbee

General Systems Theory by Ludwig von Bertalanffy

“There appear to exist general system laws which apply to any system of a particular type…

Problems of Life by Ludwig von Bertalanffy

“The investigation of organized wholes of many variables requires new categories of interaction, transaction, organization, teleology…”

General Systematics by J. G. Bennett

“The impulse to understand, and not merely to know and to act, is an impulse characteristic of man and apparently not shared by other animals. I am not concerned here with the origin and nature of this impulse, but with its implications that there is something to be understood and that understanding is not reducible to knowledge and action.

Why a Systems View? by Bela H. Banathy

“To recognize the limitations of the perspectives, methods and tools of the traditional scientific orientation.”

Conceptual Foundations by Bela H. Banathy

“We cannot observe properties of the whole bit by bit

Genesis of General Systems Theory by Bela H. Banathy

“It is the main objective of GST says Boulding, to develop “generalized ears” that overcome the “specializcd deafness” of the specific disciplines.

Developing a Systems View by Bela H. Banathy

“We believe it is our destiny, and it is within our power, to guide our evolution.”

Reflections By Bela H. Banathy

“The viability and relevance of the educational profession will be judged based on the extent to which we spearhead the evolution of education, place ourselves in the service of transforming education, and help create just systems of learning and development for future generations. We now realize that systems design is a missing inquiry in education.


New Concepts of Matter, Life and Mind by Ervin Laszlo

“In light of what scientists are beginning to glimpse regarding the nature of the quantum vacuum, the energy sea that underlies all of spacetime, it is no longer warranted to view matter as primary and space as secondary. It is to space or rather, to the cosmically extended “Dirac-sea” of the vacuum that we should grant primary reality.

Interactivism LA Manifesto by Mark H. Bickhard

“The study of the mind is the last major holdout against the historical abandonment of substance models for process models. Phlogiston (fire), caloric (heat), magnetic fluid (magnetism), vital fluid (life) are all recognized as not only false models for their respective phenomena, but the wrong kind of model. Neither fire nor heat nor magnetism nor life are phenomena of particular substances. Instead, each is a kind of process. Furthermore, our best contemporary science tells us that there are no substances. Fundamental physics models all of reality in terms of quantum fields, not substances ? and not particles

Emergence by Mark H. Bickhard & Donald T. Campbell

Accounting for emergence has proven to be extraordinarily difficult, so much so that whether or not genuine emergence exists seems still in doubt. I argue that this difficulty is primarily due to an assumption of a false and inappropriate metaphysics in analyses of emergence. In particular, common assumptions of various kinds of substance metaphysics make the notion of causally efficacious emergence seriously problematic, if not impossible.

The Whorphian Principle of Linguistic Relativity by Ludwig von Bertalanffy

“The hypothesis offered by Whorf is: That the commonly held belief that the cognitive prosesses of all human beings possess a common logical structure which operates prior to and independently of comunication through language is erroneous. It is Whorf’s view that the linguistic patterns themselves determine what the individual perceives in this world and how he thinks about it., Since these patterns vary widely, the modes of thinking and perceiving in groups utilizing different linguistic systems will result in basically different world views

The Framework of Science by Vincent Vesterby

“The compliment of all this exploratory work would be to bring all the results together in one coherent body of knowledge. The product of this synthesis would be a map of the development of reality, and of all the various types of systems therein. This synthesis would be, quite literally, the framework of general systems.

An Introduction to General Systemics By Charles Francois

“We should moreover try to discover which special sets of specific connected tools could be used to understand, explain and better manage complex issues. This is an urgent need if we want to avoid future disasters at gigantic scale.


General Orientations of Systems Science by Eberhard Umbach

“Systems Science originated in the first half of the 20th century as a backlash against the growing specialization of the sciences, and against the loss of overview, of philosophical perspective, concomitant to this.

Types of Systems by Bela H. Banathy

“In contemplating systems work, the identification of the type of system we select is a crucial issue.There are two major types: NATURAL SYSTEMS and DESIGNED SYSTEMS

Systems Inquiry by Bela H. Banathy

“SYSTEMS INQUIRY is a system itself. As a conceptual system, it has four interrelated and internally consistent aspects acting as a whole: systems PHILOSOPHY, systems THEORY, systems METHODOLOGY and systems APPLICATION.

The Four Domains of Systems Inquiry by Bela H. Banathy

“In contrast with the analytical, reductionist, and linear-causal paradigm of classical science, systems philosophy brings forth a reorientation of thought and world view, manifested by an expansionist, non- linear dynamic, and synthetic mode of thinking.

Characteristics of a Human Activity System By Bela H. Banathy

“Purpose, process, interaction, integration, and emergence are salient markers of understanding systems.

Toward a Framework Theory for Systemics By Charles Francois

“The most fundamental and general feature of any human or nonhuman organized entity is interconnectedness: A system is basically a set of interconnected elements [acting as Whole -”standing relationship”]

Living Systems Theory by Elaine Parent

By definition, living systems are open, self-organizing systems that have the special characteristics of life and “interact with their environment. This takes place by means of information and material-energy exchanges.

Perspectives on General System Theory Foreward by Ervin Laszlo

“Thus when von Bertalanffy spoke of Allgemeine Systemtheorie it was consistent with his view that he was proposing a new perspective, a new way of doing science.

Who knows what General Systems Theory is? By Charles Francois

“However, there is undoubtly a systemic-cybernetic vision (”Weltanschauung”) which includes:

Creating a Basic Tutorial by Charles Francois

“In various forms, such a tutorial has been developed along the last fifteen years by our Argentine Association.

Toward a Framework Theory for Systemics By Charles Francois

“Note: As the necessary precursors of any organized entity are vortices in fields (C. Laville, D. MacNeill), we possibly need a kind of systemic “big bang” concept, previous to the “interconnectedness” one. Thus we will also flesh out a Relationship Theory for a more general treatment.


The Evolution of Systems Inquiry by Bela H. Banathy

“Complementarity suggests that various systems trend express various rationalities and theoritical positions. These should be respected and their development should be encouraged.

Methodology by Hal Linstone

“Applied to a given system, each perspective yields insights not attainable with the others. Together, T, 0, and P form what Churchman calls a Singerian inquiring system.

System Approaches by Zhichang Zhu

“After formulating his own approach, he realised while paricipating in the Primer activity, that in the Western systems community there exist systems approaches which hold similar concerns, beliefs and desires with his. A journey of comparative study of these approaches suggests, to him, that despite of differences among cultural traditions of the populations, among practical experiences of the designers, and among social-political contexts in which these approaches emerged, developed and applied, a convergent movement among Eastern and Western systems approaches has recently emerged and is becoming significant.

Dealing with Wuli Shili Renli by Zinchang Zhu

“Many people know that ancient Chinese and Eastern thought have valuable harmonious insights for making sense of the complex movement of our world, for example, the exciting idea of the dynamic and interacting relations of Yin and Yang in the Tao Te Ching and Yi Ching, the wonderful teaching of mutual causality of all phenomena in Buddhism, etc. But, besides the useful goal of seeking descriptions, perhaps more important, we have to take action.

History of System by Tommy Mandel

“Historically, the notions of systemic wholeness (systems) have appeared throughout recorded history in the systems of early Chinese thought (Yin/Yang), and early Western thought.


A Starting Place by Gary Boyd

“The starting place for both science and philosophy, especially for young people, must be a romantic excitement with the particular possibilities of life.

What is a System? by Tommy Mandel

“In Systemics the question is what does a system do?

Systeming at a Glance by Tommy Mandel

“A system is about changing into something else.

A Definition of a System

“A system acts like a Family

Introduction to Systems by Habanas Bhola

“Indeed systems thinking preceded systems science . Cultures and religious traditions over the centuries had developed and preached systems thinking before it was made into systems theory, systemology, system sciences or system studies.

General Principles of Systems Philosophy Compiled by Tommy Mandel

“While each scientific theory selects out and abstracts from the world’s complexity a peculiar set of relations, philosophy cannot favor any particular region of human enterprise. Through conceptual experimentation it must construct a consistency that can accommodate all dimensions of experience, whether they belong to physics, physiology, psychology, biology, ethics, etc..” (Whitehead)

A Philosophy for Complexity by C. West Churchman

“I should warn you in the beginning that there are two strange characteristics of philosophers. One is that they dearly love to ask questions, and if they sniff out that there is going to be an answer somewhere they are going to be very unhappy.

A Close Look at a New Science by D. C. Mikulecky

“Once the modeling relation is understood it can easily be extended to help us understand much of epistemological activity and used to clear up some difficult problems in methodology. One illustration is the ability to encode and decode a number of different natural systems into a single formal system. This makes any of the natural systems a substitute for the formal system in the modeling relation.

Vertical and Horizontal Unificaton by Y.P. Rhee:

“Systems science is to develop the unifying principles vertically or horizontally through the universe of the individual sciences, which brings us near to the goal of the unity of science. When systems science as the transdisciplinary science can be highly developed in the future, the language of systems science can be the universal language and therefore serve as the basic language in all the fields.

Information as a System by Gyorgy Jaros

“It is argued that these informationally bonded processes are the basic ingredients of life and entities, which appear only as the result of processes, are of secondary importance. Thus, in Teleonics one does not speak of interaction between entities, but interaction between processes.

Principle of Co-Creation by H. Sabelli:

“The interaction of opposites creates complexity. Systems are processes, i.e. transformations of energy (action). Oppositions between positive and negative actions encode information, and their synergic and antagonistic interplay creates tridimensional structure, and higher dimensional organization.

Principle of Relationship by T. Mandel

“A system itself is different from an element because systemic inquiry studies how elements act together-it studies their relationships. It is these relationships which have emergent properties which are then experienced as the whole. The whole is our experience of the emergent properties of relationships, much like information on this page is found in how the black and white are put together, and not that information is black or white. Thus what constitutes a system are the particular relationships such as interaction, organization, feedback, and so on.

Cybernetics and Wholeness by Gary Boyd

“At first glance, the juxtaposition of “CYBERNETICS” and “WHOLENESS” seems highly anomalous, because, as one can see from its literature, cybernetics deals with how living sub-systems regulate, steer and reproduce themselves, and produce other (eg. machine) subsystems which are steerable or self-steering or self-reproducing etc.

A Summary of the Principles of Hierarchy Theory by Timothy F. Allen

“The Hierarchy theory is a dialect of general systems theory. It has emerged as part of a movement toward a general science of complexity. Rooted in the work of economist, Herbert Simon, chemist, Ilya Prigogine, and psychologist, Jean Piaget, hierarchy theory focuses upon levels of organization and issues of scale. There is significant emphasis upon the observer in the system.

Management and The Systems Approach by Markus Schwaninger

“Managing is about the design, the (self-)control and the transformation of organizations. To manage in reality needs more than the abstract purpose of viability and development. A logical stratification is necessary

an Emergent of Higher-level Living Systems by G.A. Swanson

“The development of a modern science of accounting has been inhibited by identification of accounting with the practice and technology of a small fraction of its function. Accounting is generally viewed as an application of more fundamental sciences. It actually is a fundamental concrete process of all living systems above the organism level.

Systems Theory in the Study of Literature and Culture

“While literary study in general and in a world wide context shows limited advances in the use of systems theory, it is the discipline of Comparative Literature that has shown implicitly and explicitly that it can provide the appropriate intellectual tools (epistemology) and methodology (borrowed from a number of approaches) for such a point of view in the study of literature.

The Earth as a System by James Grier Miller

“The planet Earth is a mixed living and nonliving system. It is the suprasystem of an supranational systems as well as the total ecological system, with all its living and nonliving components. The Earth is studied in this article in terms of a general theory of all concrete systems, with special attention to the important subset of living systems.

Understanding the Nature of System Change

“The paper seeks to open up a debate on the nature of change at a conceptual and theoretical level. It argues that the abundance of methodologies and strategies for managing system change belies an acute lack of any clear understanding of the very nature and essence of change itself, whether it be institutional, technological, environmental or organizational. The paper calls for a greater comprehension of the fundamental dynamics of change, and highlights the considerable need for a solid theoretical basis from which to explore the complexities of system change.

Cybersystemics by Gary Boyd

“Re-educating Intuition Two decades of teaching “educational Cybernetics” to Concordia University Graduate Students in Educational Technology, has led me to the conclusion that even innovation-oriented students “don’t want to know!” new ideas. Totally new (to the students) ideas are not heard, or seen, or they are all too often defensively re-interpreted as something already familiar.

Principles of Uncertainty in System Science by George J. Klir

“These principles may also be viewed as principles of uncertainty-based information. The common thrust of them is that they are sound information safeguards in dealing with systems problems. They guarantee that when we deal with any systems problem, we use all information available, we do not unwittingly use information that is not available, and we do not lose more information than inevitable.

Principle of Scalar Levels by S. Salthe: “As viewed from without by the systems modeler, the relationships between different scalar levels in a system are not direct interaction, but mutual constraint, with higher scale systems supplying boundary conditions on those nested within them, while these latter provide “initiating conditions” for events that will emerge between them and the upper levels, which can be referred to as events at a focal level. Initiating conditions propose, boundary conditions dispose.

Principle of Priority by C. Francis:

“The upbuilding of any system necessarily starts from multiple interactions among a number of compatible elements. Such interactions are also related to competition among the elements for resources extracted from their common environment If competition is not to be finally destructive for most or all the elements, it must be compatible with the maintenance and enhancement of interrelations among them, within sustainable environmental conditions.

Principle of Formal Systems L. H. Kauffman

“All (formal) systems are interpreted (formal) systems. Each abstract pattern has its origin in experience and returns to that experience. The boundary between systems as systems in the world and systems as mathematical systems can only be drawn as a convenience (or a hindrance). In reality, systems are articulations of direct experience and the articulation of experience is the act of creation of (described

The Causal Principle by Iris balsamo

“The advance of science is associated to the empirical test of its principles. In dynamic system models, there are four types of causation that correspond to Aristotle’s efficient, formal, material and final causes. They refer to systems described by structure, organization, domain of changes in the system, and domain of interactions. Formulated as law, causation fulfils the four senses of scientific law referred to dynamical systems - objective, nomological, nomopragmatic and meta-nomological.


“The idea of complementarity is that in order to describe a situation you have to use [at least on certain occasions] two mutually exclusive approaches. If you omit either, the description is incomplete. Both must be used. Because they are mutually exclusive, it is necessary to adjust the two approaches in a manner that is by no means obvious.”

The General System Principle by Tommy Mandel

“Is there a general system theory? Perhaps not, as any theory is about particulars, and particulars are not always general. Is there a general system principle? Yes there is, and it is the simplest principle.

The Unimodel by Tommy Mandel

A tetrahedral binary recursive unity diagram public domain.


The Wholeness Principle by Anna Lemkow

Today’s emergent but still sorely divided global society obviously stands in urgent need of a common ethic. a universally acceptable ideal and vision by which to live, one that might effectivily foster unity beyond all differences. I believe wholeness is the very idea which fulfills these strigent reuirements -=- that it constitutes the global ethic par excellence. More than that, the notion of wholeness insistently beckons to us, so to speak, from all sides. And inasmuch as wholeness is neither a dogma nor ideology but a living, dynamic, all-prevasive principle, it can be accepted by everyone.

Holism and Science

Excerpted from Encyclopedia Brittannica 1927

Holism (from the Greek Holos, whole) is the theory, which makes the existence of “wholes” a fundamental feature of the world. It regards natural objects, both animate and inanimate, as “wholes” and not merely as assemblages of elements or parts. It looks upon nature as consisting of discrete, concrete bodies and things, and not as a diffusive homogeneous continuum.

Synergy and the System Sciences by Peter Corning

Although it plays a significant role in most, if not all, of the scienctific disciplnes its importance is not widely appreciated because it travels under many different aliases, including emergence, cooperativity, symbiosis, coevolution, symmetry, order, interactions, interdependencies, systemic effects, even complexity and dynamical attractors. In this paper it is proposed that the term “synergy” be utilized as a pan-disciplinary lingua franca for co-operative effects of various kinds.

The Physiology of Perception by Walter J. Freeman

There is an analogy to this approach in music. To grasp the beauty in a choral piece, it is not enough to listen to the individual singers sequentially. One must hear the performers together, as they modulate their voices and timing in response to one another.

Our studies have led us as well to the discovery in the brain of chaos- complex behavior that seems random but actually has some hidden order. The chaos is evident in the tendency of vast collections of neurons to shift abruptly and simultaneously from one complex activity pattern to another in response to the smallest of inputs.

The Synergy Principle by Yongming Tang

Further, the two processes – differentiation and integration – are interrelated and inseparable. It is believed that reality differentiates to integrate into larger wholes. Then, the larger wholes continue to become parts that are further integrated into even larger wholes. Thus, from the evolutionary point of view, there is no absolute part nor whole; there are always parts/wholes. In this sense, the purpose of differentiation is for a further integration, and a further integration is for a even farther differentiation.

Furthermore, along with the two processes, the universe evolves with synergy, advancing itself with novelty. Synergy refers to the new and novel whole that is brought forth out of the processes of differentiation and integration. It is the whole which is bigger than the sum of its parts. It is with the new and novel development, the universe evolves. In Da Chuang, “life-producing is the process of Tao.” That is why we call the life-producing pattern the synergy principle.



Is Virtual Reality really Virtual?

…What so we mean by systems science? While the different historical disciplines of the sciences have all developed their specific conceptual tools and rules, systems science hold that the large diversity of observable phenomena around us, can be made intelligible by using a limited number of abstract, primordial, and universal invariants and of relations between them,. The aim of systems science is therefore the development of a GENERAL SYSTEM THEORY with a WIDER RANGE OF APPLICABILITY, a GREATER ONTOLOGICAL DEPTH than the disciplinary sciences and, hopefully, a CLOSER RELATION WITH THE OBJECTS AND THE RULES OF NATURE.

Down to Earth Epistemology by Milton Dawes

Among these many conflicting views related to nature , mind, God, values, and their interrelationships we find the following: monism (materialism, spritualism, dualism, solipsism, objectivism, determinism, indeterminism, polytheism, deism, theism, pantheism, monotheism, occasionalism, pluralism, parallelism, prmitivism, existentialism, agnosticism, atheism, utilitarianism, pragmatism, transcendentalism, to mention a few.

My pedagogic Creed by John Dewey

I believe that the only true education comes through the stimulation of the child’s powers by the demands of the social situations in which he finds himself. Through these demands he is stimulated to act as a member of a unity, to emerge from his original narrowness of action and feeling, and to conceive of himself from the standpoint of the welfare of the group to which he belongs.

Obstacles on the road to Integration

A recent report of the Long-Range Planning Committee of the American Physiological Society identifies physiology with “integrative biology” and urges that physiologists make their field “a unique branch of biology that deals with synthesis and integration.” However, certain institutional, procedural, and psychological obstacles lie in the way of those who would embark upon this task. The hurdles to be overcome include the following: the erroneous belief that biomedical scientists are already integrative; the inapplicability of the powerful methods of areas of specialization to integrative study; the fear of failure; the identification of integrative biology with the study of function; the disregard of hierarchy; the undervaluation of the abstract; the loss of a sense of mystery. These obstacles, though insidious, pervasive, and powerful, can be surmounted.

The Whole, the Parts and the Holes

What I propose is that the Whole is not Monistic but Pluralistic. In the language of formal logics used by Gotthard Guenther, a similar principle is called Poly-Contexturality. True metaphysical equiposition of the “You” and the “We” can only be achieved with a multi-valued ontology, and consequently a multi-valued post-aristotelian logics.

Longing for Unified Knowledge by Ivan Havel

I would like to suggest a small proposal. What about locking up a few top scholars from different disciplines (perhaps from the sciences as well as humanities) in an inaccessible tower for a certain period of time - certainly not a few days only, more preferably for a few months. Let them freely think and chat among themselves while protected from the distractions and demands of their peers. They will soon learn to understand each other’s language. I bet that they would soon achieve a resonance of shared motives, themes, principles, concepts and ideas.

Perhaps the story of the tower of Babel could be played in reverse.


“We do not realize what tremendous power the structure of an habitual language has. It is not an exaggeration to say that it enslaves us through the mechanism of semantic reactions and that the structure which a language exhibits, and impresses on us unconsciously, is _automatically projected_ upon the world around us. (p. 89)

Einstein and the common language of human-kind by Reza Khalesi

He seems to know clearly how it is to be a human being with an expressive power of thinking, language, and reasoning. He seems to know how we gradually started to make vocal notes and assigning these notes to objects in our surroundings. How we made rules that governed not only the relationship between and among these notes, but also the relatedness between our notes and our sensual perceptions. He knew how language was developed and how human being understood the notes he had created. He knew clearly that at the early stages we had just a simple system of notes with which we could call things by name.

Words and Language compiled by Tommy Mandel

“Out of what is in itselt an indistinguishable, swarming continuum, devoid of distinction (sunyata), or emphasis, our senses make for us, by attending to this motion and ignoring that, a world full of contrasts, of sharp accents, of abrupt changes, of picturesque light and shade. Helmholtz says that we notice only those sensations which are signs to us of things. But what are things? Nothing, as we shall abundantly see, but special groups of sensible qualities, which happen practically or aesthetically to interest us, to which we therefore give substantive names, and which we exalt to this exclusive status of independence and dignity.”

A Philosophy of Education Compiled by Tommy Mandel

I would far rather feel remorse than know how to define it.

A State of the World Message by John Mc Connell

A major policy that will facilitate success in cases where differences arise is to constantly look for and acknowledge important points of agreement. In my own efforts to help resolve differences between Soviet and American leaders (which succeeded on several occasions) I persuaded both sides to cooperate in matters of importance in which they agreed – in spite of strong differences in other matters. Their joint actions in environmental matters and in Space then led to better communications and aided resolution of differences.

What I Learned from the Rainforest

Yet rainforests are incredibly productive. They are home to millions of types of plants and animals. More than two-thirds of all biodiversity in the world. Those plants and animals are so perfectly mixed that the system is more efficient, and more creative, than any business in the world.

Unified Knowledge

Let us consider the question of whether we can engage in transdisciplinary research at all when it is so hard to overcome the fear of dilettantism. The call for improved communication among specialists would fail miserably if scholars were expected to learn first yet another specialized discipline.

general-semantics outline by Bob Pula

Editor’s note: If we are serious about Systemic Inquiry, there is a part or aspect of systemics, a “systemic aspect” that interpenetrates all interrelationships, and that is our language. How we think, how we talk, how we comunicate, we all do this with language. There are problems with language, mis-identification of abstractionals, confusion of abstractional levels, reversal of abstractional processes, and more. But the one aspect that affects us all to the depths of our being and the heights of our joy, is the “misplaced concreteness” of words.

The Allegory of the Cave by Plato

This entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glaucon, to the previous argument; the prison-house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world according to my poor belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed, whether rightly or wrongly God knows. But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally either in public or private life must have his eye fixed.

Language and Integration by Joe Engleberg

Generating a vast volume of words on specific topics via books, papers, lectures is a necessity in all areas of specialization. Can this, then, possibly be the way of integrative study, systems thought?

Concision is the hallmark of integrative study; torrents of words belong to the areas of specialization.

Each profound thought is encapsulated in a few, simple, fruitful words.

In time an organized, growing body of aphoristic statements arises. It can become a framework for thought.

A chaotic body of statements (collections of quotations, proverbs, or insights) cannot serve the purpose. Each statement must be organically linked to the statement which precedes it and the one which follows.

Why Systems Fail and Problems Sprout Anew Review by Anthony Judge


David Bohm and the Implicate Order by David Pratt

In 1982 a remarkable experiment to test quantum interconnectedness was performed by a research team led by physicist Alain Aspect in Paris. The original idea was contained in a thought experiment (also known as the “EPR paradox”) proposed in 1935 by Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen, but much of the later theoretical groundwork was laid by David Bohm and one of his enthusiastic supporters, John Bell of CERN, the physics research center near Geneva. The results of the experiment clearly showed that subatomic particles that are far apart are able to communicate in ways that cannot be explained by the transfer of physical signals traveling at or slower than the speed of light. Many physicists, including Bohm, regard these “nonlocal” connections as absolutely instantaneous. An alternative view is that they involve subtler, nonphysical energies traveling faster than light, but this view has few adherents since most physicists still believe that nothing-can exceed the speed of light.

An Interview of Robert Rosen

Complexity is really recognized by the failure of all our attempts to deal simply with these systems. Simplicity is easier to define. I define a system to be simple if it has certain properties and anything else is a system that isn’t simple; I call “complex”. Simplicity is one of the things we inherited from physics; a philosophy of science: all systems can be broken up in a certain canonical set of ways and all systems are built up out of pieces that arise from such decompositions, again in a certain canonical set of ways. So, a system is simple if you can take it apart in a familiar fashion or put it together from pieces in a familiar fashion. That’s what basically it means for a system to be simple. The whole idea behind physics was that all systems were simple. And that’s the way science progresses, by finding the right pieces and the right ways of putting the pieces back together. The lesson I bring from biology is that most systems, MOST systems are not even simple. Most systems are more like organisms. There’s no one fixed set of parts into which they can all be decomposed…

The Frozen River of Relationships by Matthew Shapiro

Having always had the means to explore - intuitively, imaginatively, and with the tools of science (best represnted by systems theory) - we have become aware in various ways of various orders of complexity and the existence of sub-systems and supra-systems, and the dynamics which characterize them. So now we wonder what makes the boundary between systems. Clearly, this is a matter of context. We place the boundaries wherever it is most auspicious and pragmatic to do so.

System v.s. Program

There are two ways to approach a problem: by attacking it with a program, or end-running it with a system. A program is a single action or set of actions intended to influence something outside itself. Typical programs might include: a crime enforcement program, a jobs program, an environmental program. A system is a set of interrelating parts that performs functions inside itself. It is a set of ideas or objects that must work together to perform a particular function.

The Dance of Life

Starting with physicists’ current view of cosmic beginnings we have seen that the universe has tremendous energy to spend–and that it spends this energy evolving itself into ever more complicated patterns, including those we recognize as alive. We have come to believe that the total useful, or working, energy of the universe–according to the laws of physics, in particular the law of entropy–is gradually running down. Yet living creatures collect, store, and increase working energy wherever they find it violating this law. To keep the laws of physics consistent, scientists believe that in increasing energy locally living beings must be decreasing the energy of their environment at an even greater rate Only thus would they satisfy the overall demands of the entropy law, otherwise known as the second law of thermodynamics–the jaw which says that things are running down as a whole. This Implies that living things must use up and thereby degrade their environment, making it ever less useful to other living things.

Ancient Systems Thinking in China

In the light of modern systems, the Tao Te Ching is a theory of a special system, consisting of man and his environment. This system is named as Tao-Te. The Tao or the Way is about how things, including man and nature, should be, and Te or integrity is about the man itself. This is evidenced in chapter 62,\ Man patterns himself on earth, earth patterns itself on heaven, heaven patterns itself on the Way, the Way patterns itself on nature. Here, it is believed that there is a single and overarching Way that encompasses everything in the universe.

Understanding Complexity by J.N. Warfield

If the study of complexity mistakenly begins by simply assuming a received language. And if it ignores more than two millennia of thought about thinking, then it will be unlikely to reflect the high quality that is demanded when working with complexity. The subject is inherently difficult, and it does not require compounding the difficulty by ignoring the linguistic perils and possibilities; nor does it benefit from following the current fashions, while ignoring the magnificent history that is available.

How Big is our Umbrella? by Ken Wilber

What I have observed in the field of consciousness studies (as elsewhere) is that researchers tend to choose one or two of those approaches very early in their careers, usually under the influence of a significant mentor, organization, or academic department. And, human nature being what it is, it is then extremely difficult for them to embrace, or sometimes even acknowledge, the existence of the other approaches. Evidence that supports their position is avidly accumulated; evidence that does not is ignored, devalued, or explained away.But what if, instead, we make the following assumption: The human mind is incapable of producing 100 percent error. In other words, nobody is smart enough to be wrong all the time.

No Boundary by Ken Wilber

The peculiar thing about a boundary is that, however complex and rarefied it might me, it actually marks off nothing but an inside and an outside., For example, we can draw the very simplest form of a boundary line as a circle, and see that it discloses an inside versus an outside. But notice that the opposites on inside vs.. outside didn’t exist in themselves until we drew the boundary on the circle. It is the if boundary line in other words, which creates s pair of opposites,, in short, to draw boundaries is to manufacture opposites…And the world of opposites is world of conflict. So instead of handling and manipulating real objects, Adam could manipulate in his head these magic, names which stood for the objects themselves.

Respository of the iigss Yi Lin

The International Institute for General Systems Studies, Inc., recommends the following publications to anyone interested in systems and cybernetics. Synergy of complements in Living Systems by Gyorgy Yaros

Synergy of Complements is the creative collaboration between two complex systems or processes which have many common, but also some opposing characteristics. These two systems should not be regarded as opposites, as it is generally the case, but rather as complements to one another.

Such a synergetic behaviour can be explained within a process-based framework, such as teleonics (Jaros & Cloete, 1987). The relevant aspects of teleonics are introduced with some synergies of complements as examples. Finally, it is proposed that teaching the principle of the Synergy of Complements should start early in life, in order to avoid some of the serious difficulties and even disasters which stem from the generally inappropriate applications of the Law of Excluded Middle to complex systems.

Problematique Club of Rome

Selected publications of Robert Vallee


General System Yearbook Volume I - 1956

General System Yearbook Volume II - 1957

Presidential Address 1996 by Ervin Laszlo

We have arrived at a watershed in the history of humanity. Given current trends in demography, resource consumption, militarization, lifestyle and wealth-disparities, and the degeneration of the environment, our future on this planet is no longer assured. While on the one hand we could pave the way toward a system of social, economic, and political organization that is peaceful and capable of ensuring an adequate level of sustainability of the human Iife-supporting environment, on the other we could find ourselves on a descending path toward growing social, political and environmental crises and possibly catastrophes. The choice at this point of bifurcation is still open. It merits further reflection.

Presidential Address 1998 by G.A. Swanson

Over the last four decades, the International Society for the Systems Sciences has been more of a phantom vortex for a fluid but identifiable subculture than a visible organization. During that period, this subculture, hovering around the systems perspective, has penetrated virtually every academic and scientific discipline. The endurance of ISSS for almost a half-century testifies to the profound strength of this new subcultureand ultimately to the passion of some humans to reach beyond themselves and to participate in that which is greater than they. ISSS has never been a strong organization. But many strong programs and organizations have grown at the hands of some who have passed through this vortex. We all know that strong organizations grow from maturing sets of ideas that concern specific purposes and goals. We also know that our Society seeks the general, the whole. Why then, can we not allow ourselves to understand that the nature of the product of ISSS has not heretofore provided the ingredients of strong organization? What is the purpose and goals of all encompassing theory? Do we then argue ISSS out of existence? On the contrary. Only a few years ago, few people could recognize a compelling need for theories beyond the level of individual disciplines. Today, the need for interdisciplinary research is widely recognized. System thinking is again in the air.

Presidential Address 1999 by Bela A. Banathy

During the past few centuries we have achieved a remarkable synthesis of science and technology. We have been less successful in establishing a graceful or even workable relationship between nature, humanity, science, and technology. It is becoming increasingly important for us to ask the fundamental questions that will lead to an understanding of these relationships.

Unique to our age is the massive scale at which we are applying science and technology to the construction of our physical, social, and cultural reality. However, the dominant approach to the construction of these realities is fragmented. A distinguishing feature of the next millennium must be a more systemic view of science and technology. A view that gives full expression to the creative energy of the human Spirit upon which the information age can be built.

Presidential Address 2000

Presidential Address 2001

Presidential Address 2002

Presidential Address 2003

Presidential Address 2004

Presidential Address 2005 by Debora Hammond

One of the initial aims of the society, when it was first organized in 1954, was to foster the unity of science by bringing together scholars from different disciplinary fields, to share their insights and see what they could learn from each other. This orientation toward the unity of knowledge is one of the features that makes ISSS unique among systems-oriented institutions, and it is perhaps the most important contribution that we offer in this field - because we do try to bring different perspectives together. So the question remains whether or not this is a meaningful pursuit in the context of our times, and if so how we might most effectively pursue such a quest. Personally, I see it as an important challenge, not only for ISSS, but for the world as a whole.

ISSS Keynote Address by Willis W. Harmon

One of the most important aspects of these forces for change is the apparent emergence of a new worldview. Since people operate from their individual pictures of reality which are so strongly affected by collective beliefs, we need to consider signs of change in the worldview that dominates modern society. On the one hand, a radical change in worldview has happened only rarely in history; in the Western world the two times we can identify are the end of the Roman Empire and the end of the Middle Ages. On the other hand, there are many indications of the possible emergence of a trans-modern picture of reality differing both from the scientific worldview and the traditional religious worldview.

This emerging trans-modern worldview, involves a shift in the locus of authority from external to “inner knowing.”

Kids Only Page

“A “system” is like a “family”. A family is a system. A family can be a human family or an animal family.It is not important what makes up a family, what is important is that what makes up a family acts like a family.

Primer History

“We were looking for a term that Ken’s eight year old son would understand. We debated the value of “group,” “entity,” or “set” and decided that perhaps we ought to use a relational word instead. Relational words are words like father, son, cousin, up, hot, here, words that denote relationship as opposed to identity words like Bob, Mary, Bill and Mike.

Primer Birth

“That was then, and this is now, best exemplified by Charles Francois, editor of the International Encyclopedia of Systemics and Cybernetics. “Many systems related models and concepts have appeared during the last 50 years. But this occured in a casual and even random way. Some arose in specific disciplines and their general value did not become immediately obvious. Some others were shaped by globally oriented minds, but their usefulness in a transdiciplinarian sense was not perceived by specialists in widely separated fields. It is now time to search everywhere for these scattered bits of systemic knowledge. They should be gathered, related, ordered and explained in a global perspective. We should moreover try to discover which special sets of specific connected tools could be used to understand, explain and better manage complex issues. This is an urgent need if we want to avoid future disasters at gigantic scale. It is altogether the only way to give systemics its real dimension and importance for the future of mankind. This is what the members of the Primer project are trying to achieve.”

“The Primer has a twofold purpose. In one sense it is a primer of systemic principles, a handbook on what is out there. On the other hand, the Primer induces action, primes the pump, so to speak, serving as a resource for systemic action for the professional as well as a casual observer.

“The Primer as a elementary primer is unique in that it is a collective effort of primarily ISSS members therby presenting a rather unique multi-perspectual viewpoint.

“We are compiling information on three levels - a single sentence glossory definition; a single page explanation; and a multi-page overview. These then will be combined and hyper linked in various ways.

Primer Bibliography


Primer Links

Phase three of the promer project was to enable hypertext links to detailed articles.


We continue with the work of David Ing who has captured an essense of our conferences []

Note: If you are interested in participating in the Primer Project please contact tom(@) We are especially looking for research papers involved with consciousness which recognizes the systemic perspective.

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