Guess what? Already there is an "interactive" academic community that has been around for nearly half the Century. They call their thing "system" Everyone knows what a system is, even if it is only "my system." But science has a system that is general, Ludwig von Bertalanffy defined it as "Elements in Standing Relationship" and the key word is interaction. Today we all think of the elements, what is new here is thinking in terms of interaction. But you know scientists, they like to know all about it. The first paragaph is an excerptation of Capra's "Turning Point." Then I quote a master of the complexity science, "someone should be studying the whole..." Gell Man says, and indeed Ludwig von Bertalanffy starts it off as a science. After that it gets complex or not, depending. I have just been informed by Li that these are outer systems, and we yet have to integrate inner systems.

 

Part Two

A different Perspective

FRITJOF CAPRA

An excerptation
"The dramatic change in concepts and ideas that happened in physics during the first three decades of this century has been widely discussed by physicists and philosophers for more than fifty years...The intellectual crisis of quantum physicists in the 1920's is mirrored today by a similar but much broader cultural crisis. The major problems of our time...are all different facets of one single crisis, which is essentially a crisis of perception...Like the crisis in quantum physics, it derives from the fact that most of us. and especially our large social institutions, subscribe to the concepts of an outdated world view...At the same time researchers...are developing a new vision of reality...emerging from modern physics can be characterized by words like organic, (w)holistic, and ecological. It might also be called a systems view, in the sense of general systems theory. The universe is no longer seen as a machine, made up of a multitude of objects, but has to be pictured as one indivisible dynamic whole whose parts are essentially interrelated and can be understood only as patterns of a cosmic process". What we are seeing today is a shift of paradigms not only within science but also in the larger social arena...The social paradigm now receding had dominated our culture for several hundred years, during which it shaped our modern Western society and has significantly influenced the rest of the world...This paradigm consists of...the view of the world as a mechanical system, the view of the body as a machine...the view of life as a competitive struggle...the belief of unlimited of unlimited progress achieved through economic and technological growth and the belief that the female is subsumed under the male...During recent decades all these assumptions have been severely limited and in need of radical revision. Indeed, such a revision is mow taking place...In science, the language of systems theory. and especially the theory of living systems, seems to provide the most appropriate formulation of the new ecological paradigm. I would like to now specify what is meant by the systems approach...I shall identify five criteria of systems approach...1. Shift from the parts to the whole. The properties of the parts can be understood only from the dynamics of the whole. In fact, ultimately there are no parts at all 2. Shift from the structure to the process. In the new paradigm, every structure is seen as a manifestation of an underlying process. 3. Shift from objective to epistemic science. In the new paradigm, it is believed the epistemology - the understanding of the process of knowledge - has to be included explicitly in the description of natural phenomenon...4. A shift from building to networks as a metaphor of knowledge. In the new paradigm, the metaphor of knowledge as a building is being replaced by that of the network. 5. Shift from truth to approximate descriptions. This insight is crucial to all modern science...in the new paradigm, it is recognized that all scientific concepts and theories are limited and approximate...One of the most important insights of the new systems theory is that life and cognition are inseparable. The process of knowledge is also the process of self-organization, that is, the process of life. Our conventional model of knowledge is one of representation or an image of independently existing facts which is the model derived from classical physics. From, the new systems point of view, knowledge is a part of the process of life, of a dialogue between subject and object. I believe that the world view implied by modern physics is inconsistent with our present society, which does not reflect the interrelatedness we observe in nature. To achieve such a state of dynamic balance, a radically different social and economic structure will be needed; a cultural revolution in the true sense of the word. The survival of our whole civilization may depend on whether we can bring about such a change. It will depend ultimately, on our ability to...experience the wholeness of nature and the art of living with it in harmony."

 

MURRAY GELL-MANN

Today the network of relationships linking the human race to itself and to the rest of the biosphere is so complex that all aspects affect all others to an extraordinary degree. Someone should be studying the whole system, however crudely that has to be done, because no gluing together of partial studies of a complex nonlinear system can give a good idea of the behavoir of the whole."

THEORY

GENERAL SYSTEMS THEORY
Ludwig von Bertalanffy
"Compared to the analytical procedure of classical science with resolution into component elements and one-way or linear causality as basic category, the investigation of organized wholes of many variables requires new categories of interaction, transaction, organization, teleology..."
"These considerations lead to the postulate of a new scientific discipline which we call general system theory. It's subject matter is formulation of principles that are valid for "systems" in general, whatever the nature of the component elements and the relations or "forces" between them...
"General system theory, therefore, is a general science of wholeness"...
The meaning of the somewhat mystical expression, "The whole is more that the sum of its parts" is simply that constitutive characteristics are not explanable from the characteristics of the isolated parts. "

 

-FRITJOF CAPRA
The Turning Point

The systems view looks at the world in terms of relationships and integration. Systems are integrated wholes whose properties cannot be reduced to those of smaller units. Instead of concentrating on basic building blocks or basic substances, the systems approach emphasizes basic principles of organization. Every organism- from the smallest bacterium through the wide range or plants and animals to humans is an integrated whole and thus a living system. ...But systems are not confined to individual organisms and their parts. The same aspects of wholeness are exhibited by social systems- such as an anthill, a beehive, or a human family- and by ecosystems that consist of a variety of organisms and inanimate matter in mutual interaction. What is preserved in a wilderness area is not individual trees or organisms but a complex web of relationships between them.

All these natural systems are wholes whose specfic structures arise from the interactions and interdependence of their parts. The activity of systems involves a process known as transaction- the simultaneous and mutually interdependent interaction between multiple components."

 

JANTSCH:
In a true system...not all macroscopic properties follow from the properties of components and combinations. Macroscopic properties often do not result from static structures, but from dynamic interactions playing both within the system and between the system and its environment...A human being falling in love -- perhaps only once in a lifetime -- changes the life of the community of which he or she is a part. Such considerations already hint at the fact that a systemic view of necessity leads to a dynamic perspective. Quite generally, a system becomes observable and definable as a system through its interactions. (The Self-Organizing Universe." p24)

 

GARY BOYD
A Starting Place Submitted by by

A top-down systemic strategy, this involves imagining the whole oceanic unity of the universe, as we all vaguely remember experiencing it in the womb, then making a division, say between self and other, then conversationally and experimentally exploring the connections across the boundary between self and other. Then successively by making other analagous distinctions, say between the self and the family and the other, or between the living and the non-living, we can explore the connections across those boundaries using guiding metaphors as heuristics and rigorous logic for detailed self-correcting theory and model building.

DAVID BOHM

"But let me emphasize that to have an approach of wholeness doesn't mean
that we are going to be able to capture the whole of existence within
our concepts and knowledge. Rather it means first that we understand
this totality as an unbroken and seamless whole in which relatively
autonomous objects and forms emerge. And secondly it means that in so
far as wholeness is comprehended with the aid of the implicate order,
the relationship between the various parts or sub wholes are ultimately
internal. Wholeness is seen as primary while the parts are secondary, in
the sense that what they are and what they do can be understood only in
the light of the whole. And perhaps I should also add here that in each
sub whole there is a certain quality that does not come from the parts,
but helps organize the parts. I could summarize this in the principle:
The wholeness of the whole and the parts. Each human being is therefore
related to the totality, including nature and the whole of mankind. He
is also therefore internally related to other human beings. How close
that relationship is, has to be explored. What I am further saying is
that the quantum theory implies that ultimately the relationship of the
parts and whole of matter in general is understood in a similar way.
This approach of wholeness could help to end the far-reaching and
pervasive fragmentation that arises out of the mechanistic world view."

WALTER FREEMAN
The Physiology of Perception
When a person glimpses the face of a famous actor, sniffs a favorite food or hears the voice of a friend, recognition is instant. Within a fraction of a second after the eyes, nose, ears, tongue or skin is stimulated, one knows the object is familiar and whether it is desirable or dangerous. How does such recognition, which psychologists call preattentive perception, happen so accurately and quickly, even when the stimuli are complex and the context in which they arise varies?

Much is known about the way the cerebral cortex, the outer rind of the brain, initially analyzes sensory messages. Yet investigations are only now beginning to suggest how the brain moves beyond the mere extraction of features-how it combines sensory messages with past experience and with expectation to identify both the stimulus and its particular meaning to the individual.

My own group's studies, carried out over more than 30 years at the University of California at Berkeley, suggest that perception cannot be understood solely by examining properties of individual neurons, a microscopic approach that currently dominates neuroscience research. We have found that perception depends on the simultaneous, cooperative activity of millions of neurons spread throughout expanses of the cortex. Such global activity can be identified, measured and explained only if one adopts a macroscopic view alongside the microscopic one.

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.

From: February 1991 Scientific American, Vol 264, (2) Pgs. 78-85.


JAN C. SMUTS

Holism and Evolution;

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. (which) looks upon nature as consisting of discrete, concrete bodies and things, and not as a diffusive homogeneous continuum. And these bodies or things are not entirely resolvable into parts; in one degree or another they are wholes which are more than the sum of their parts, and the mechanical putting together of their parts will not produce them or account for their characters and behaviour. The so-called parts are in fact not real but largely abstract analytical distinctions, and do not properly or adequately express what has gone to the making of the thing as a whole.

 

GREGORY BATESON
Gregory Bateson A Sacred Unity Harper 1991 ISBN 0-06-250100-3

A system, after all, is any unit containing feedback structure and therefore competent to process information. There are ecological systems, social systems, and the individual organism plus the environment with which it interacts is itself a system in this technical sense. The circumstance that the family as a unit came to be thought of as a system must lead back inevitably, I believe, to considering the individual as a system.
It follows that the ways of thinking evolved by psychiatrists in order to understand the family as a system. . . .The polarization of opinion then will not be simply between practitioners of individual therapy and practitioners of family therapy but between those who think in terms of systems and those who think in terms of lineal sequences of cause and effect. . . .
The basic rule of system theory is that, if you want to understand some phenomenon or appearance, you must consider that phenomenon within he context of all completed circuits which are relevant to it.

 

ERWIN LASZLO

New Concepts of Matter, Life & Mind
Advances in the new sciences suggest a further modification of this assumption about the nature of reality. 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. The things we know as matter (and that scientists know as mass, with its associated properties of inertia and gravitation) appear as the consequence of interactions in the depth of this universal field. In the emerging concept there is no "absolute matter," only an absolute matter- generating energy field.

 

PETER SENGE
The Fifth Discipline

Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static “snapshots.” It is a set of general principles—distilled over the course of the twentieth century, spanning fields as diverse as the physical and social sciences, engineering, and management. ...During the last thirty years, these tools have been applied to understand a wide range of corporate, urban, regional, economic, political, ecological, and even psychological systems. And systems thinking is a sensibility—for the subtle interconnectedness that gives living systems their unique character.

 

MARILYN FERGUSON
The Aquarian Conspiracy
General Systems Theory, a related modern concept [to holism], says that each variable in any system interacts with the other variables so thoroughly that cause and effect cannot be separated. A simple variable can be both cause and effect. Reality will not be still. And it cannot be taken apart! You cannot understand a cell, a rat, a brain structure, a family, a culture if you isolate it from its context. Relationship is everything.

ERIC SOMMER Synergy: an Introduction:
By a `synergy', I mean a system of interactions between two or more actors or centers of action. The word `synergy' comes from a Greek work meaning `working together'. Any set of two or more interacting beings may be regarded as a synergy. Two people in a conversation, two people bumping into each other on the street, a bee visiting flowers and polinating them, or two armies at war may all be regarded as synergies. All of them involve interactons or systems of interaction between two or more beings or centers of action.

 

PETER CORNING
Synergy and the Systems Sciences:

Synergy -- the combined effects produced by two (or more ) parts, elements or individuals -- is a unbiquitous phemomenon in nature and human societies alike.

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.

Although its role is often unappreciated, synergy can also be considered one of the core concepts of the systems sciences.

 

 

—LUDWIG von BERTALANFFY
Problems of Life
A “system” can be defined as a complex of elements standing in interaction. There are general principles holding for systems, irrespective of the nature of the component elements and the relations of forces between them. ...In modern science, dynamic interaction is the basic problem in all fields, and its general principles will have to be formulated in general General Systems Theory.