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System Dynamics: Tools to model complex systems

Discussion in 'Wild Card Forum' started by enjoypolo, Dec 30, 2019.

  1. enjoypolo

    enjoypolo Moderator
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    Hey Everyone,

    As listener of THC since 2016, my continuous explorations have led me to discover many fascinating rabbit holes. One thing that's become clear overtime, is that to manifest the visions of a fairer, more harmonious World (like say, a civilization that runs on gravity or aether-sourced energies, or one that promotes regeneration of the environment and its ecosystems), we need to be the change-makers.

    This is why I wanted to share with this community, a valuable tool (although some would call it a management philosophy) known as Systems Thinking.
    To be honest, explaining Systems Thinking would take me a whole book. But let me also say that, most of us already make use of system thinking to make every-day decisions, whether consciously or not. That's because we are, and are part of systems, nested within even larger systems (molecular< individual<family<community<country<species<planetary<galactical), all the way up the cosmic scales

    For example, most of us need to eat (let's assume you're not a breatharian:D). What you eat (e.g. diet), where you get your food from (e.g. farmer's market vs supermarket) ; how you eat (i.e., at home, or outside): All these actions have a larger effect on the larger world out there, even if it seems too complex. In essence, your money affects the larger system dynamics out there, in small but measurable ways.

    Donella Meadows defines systems as:
    I'm afraid going deeper than this would only make it harder. So let me instead, recommend a great book that gets to the heart of this concept. It's called Systems Thinking for Social Change by David Peter Stroh (links at the resource section below)

    Systems Dynamics: An extension of System Thinking & the tools to model systems

    System Dynamics
    seeks understand the processes involved within a system(s) over time.
    We use computer modelling tools to visualise the various elements and interconnections within a structure, to get a clear picture that resembles reality.
    Such a tool can't/doesn’t aim for perfection (there are infinite unforeseeable variables), and that's okay. Instead, it's goal is to give a general system overview of the interactions at play (and the sub-systems). We can use those parameters to simulate various scenarios (e.g. population growth over-time).

    In the West, this field was pioneered by Jay Wright Forrester (1918-2016), a professor at MIT's Sloan School for Management, and an early pioneer of computer development. He came up with the concept of non-linear complex system behaviours as early as the '50s.
    Another pioneer whom I only discovered since writing this post, is Donella Meadows, a pioneer in this field, who notable wrote the book Limits To Growth (1971) where she (and her research group) applied these concepts to the global population growth, predicting a number of possible scenarios in the 21st century (from collapse to transition to a "sustainable" future, and many in-betweens).

    An analogy is to look at the way an apple contains seeds, which thanks to food, water, and other conditions develops into a fruit tree, fruiting many apples, and continue the feedback loop ad infinitum (or not). While this perspective is seen as a linear process, the real dynamics involved are non-linear.
    For instance, the tree provides wood from prunings (which can provide wood for mushroom substrate); the tree also provides nutrients to other plants, increasing soil health; the fruits provides food or even revenue, which in turn helps inject cash in the local economy, and so on.
    We can see how all these things are tightly inter-connected and inter-dependent, and realise how the tree is part of a larger ecosystem. In fact, this non-linear process is how Nature works all the time. It is all around us, we just generally don't perceive it as such.
    I see it as over-unity (free energy) applied to business by making use of resources as efficiently as Nature does.

    Personally, I am still new to how it all works, but the essence of it is simple enough to grok, and the tools used are quite basic.



    This video gives a clear, and simple overview of the process.

    In his book Plan A: The Transformation of Argentina's Economy, Pauli actually uses these charts to illustrate the blue economy initiatives that leverage waste from one industry, and turn it into cascading resources, using the diagram to visualise the many feedbacks and outcomes.

    The main components of Systems are stocks and flows. The former is anything that can accumulate or be depleted (e.g., a resource, like coffee). Flows are activities (or processes) that affects stocks (e.g., production, consumption). Also, feedback loops can be positive (generative process; birth) or negative (depleting process; death)

    In the three examples below the book, one can see coffee as a resource; the second with yeast; the last with seaweed production. Each one of them is made up of more-or-less complex systems generating various outcomes at each step. You get the idea.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Another benefit of System Dynamics is that they are scale-invariant: from molecular actions to interstellar dynamics, you can create a flow diagram using the exact same tools. It's thus a universal tool. I can imagine using this to assess one's health (or finances), by mapping the daily activities that are either productive/benefitting or life-energy depleting, and adjusting accordingly (more on that in the resources section below).

    Why don't they teach this at Universities, or even in high-school beats me.. but I'm glad there's plenty materials for self-study online. (At least, I never came across it..)

    I should add, that there is nothing inherently benevolent about this business model. One can easily use this to further enrich oneself. But, I personally feel the greatest benefit come with using this to benefit self, as well as others (and environment). Whole is bigger than the sum of the parts (aka synergy).

    Also, this is just the tip of the iceberg. In the future, I'll try to go more in-depth on certain characteristics: for instance, uncontrolled exponential growth almost always leads to an abrupt crash due to unforeseen reasons. Inversely, negative feedback loops often serve to control growth, and can be used productively.

    Balance is a key aspect, and Pauli discusses why trees don't grow in size infinitely, even if they technically could, because doing so would lead them to collapse and destroy. Instead, Nature usually works within its self-imposed limits, or equilibrium (Inversely, current linear economies too often seek to maximize return-on-investment, to the point where ethics or benefits to the common-good are unconsidered). But I think this is good primer to start.

    It also reminded me of a famous conspiracy document/book called Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars, which explains societal dynamics using electrical principles (i.e., physics) to map out how populations can be manipulated using economics.


    I'm learning learning as I go myself, but hopefully, will be sharing more personal experiences with the tools soon. Just planting some seeds here in case it may inspire someone else ;)

    Below are some resources, including self-education online classes.
    https://insightmaker.com - Free browser-based modelling platform
    Systems Thinking and Modelling (includes a free book for learning; also, great contents)
    Vensim PLE - Vensim Modelling software (free for personal use) there are others as well.
    Guide to Learning Systems Dynamics
    System Dynamics self-study offered by MIT Sloan School of Management
    Resources for Systems Thinking - This is great primer for a more general understanding for affecting change

    Books:
    (epub, mobi) Systems Thinking for Social Change by David Peter Stroh
    (epub, mobi) The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge

    (epub) Limits To Growth, by Donella Meadows 1971 (30-year update edition 2004)
    (mobi) Thinking in Systems, Donella Meadows 2008 (primer for the subject)




    This wonderful video discusses leverage points, using the iceberg model. Shows non-linear evolution, and how changes at the model (root causes) level has drastic, qualitative effects, instead of just trying to fix the symptoms. Very educational content :)

    Happy New Year 2020 Everyone! Cheers:D;)
     

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    #1 enjoypolo, Dec 30, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2020
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  2. enjoypolo

    enjoypolo Moderator
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    Since I first posted this thread at the inception stage into systems thinking, I noticed how complex this is to break-it-down coherently.
    Coming across such great books (which I'm still reading through) as David Peter Stroh's Systems Thinking for Social Change, or the more pioneering ones by Donella Meadows (all titles are available above), I realised the importance of opening the topic focusing on the philosophy, rather than the tools themselves, which can come later, for applying the models more concretely.


    One of the clear insights I had, was that a group like THC is especially suited for Systems Thinking. Let me explain. We are seekers of truth (or untruths) whereby we question how events unfold; the structures of powers in place that are often unknown to most.
    In other words, we use systems thinking in order to get a better grasp on our reality.

    For me, the epitome of this was finding (and reading) David Icke's books a few years ago. It put together pieces of the puzzles that I had (and had not) in a way that not only made sense, but allowed for predictability of patterns, which more often than not, confirmed the proposed model (the reptilian, top-down totalitarian tip-toe control power). Better yet, later on, other bits of information provided even more elaborate, and infinitely more complex elements (i.e., dark magick, spiritual entities..)

    Another one would be Ole Dammegard and his analyses of shooting/false-flag events, or even Nassim Haramein's work in unified physics. The point is, by taking a step away from the superficial event (i.e., tip of the iceberg), and instead, by looking at the patterns and trends (mid-level of iceberg), we are able to picture beyond, into the foundational structure that gives rise to it all (the root, or largest part of the iceberg).

    And in fact, this is what's known as the iceberg model to distinguish superficial issues and underlying root causes.
    [​IMG]
    From David Peter Stroh's Systems Thinking for Social Change

    To continue with the conspiracy analogy, when we focus solely on above-surface events, at best we only put a band-aid on it without addressing the root causes, at worst, we make the problem worse (even despite our best intentions). It's only by digging deeper that we are able to detect patterns, and later arrive at a coherent structure. Ultimately, the goal is to find the most effective leverage points, allowing us to tip the system with minimum effort (martial arts). Donella Meadows also calls it social acupuncture (more on that in the future).

    Example: Most "normies" would react with surprise to a pedo-criminal scandal in the higher echelons breaking out, even though most THC listeners would not.
    The latter group knows that this is a common pattern (i.e., billionaire boys club = shady business).
    Those who are balls deep into it (no pun intended) know further that these patterns emerge from an even deeper underlying structure rooted in some-kind of luciferian-dark magick occultist cult that goes back centuries, if not more.

    The difference, then, between the normie who is surprised (and shuns away quickly), and the THC-System Thinker, is that the latter is not surprised at the symptoms (events) when they pop-up (if not for the fact that they did suface to light), offering a better, more holistic understanding of his/her environment, thus, potentially, be able to make better decisions to affect the system towards their ethical alignments (e.g., like not empowering the predator groups even more by signing up to Disney+!, just kiddin, but you catch my drift)

    So that's system-thinking (holistic, iceberg-like) compared to linear-thinking (event-to-event) in a nutshell. You can see how not only it's empowering, but most importantly, how ubiquitous it is, even if you haven't heard of it by its name before.

    Another cool thing are common dysfunctional patterns found in systems. These are called system archetypes, and like their tarot counterparts, there are a number of them, and by knowing how to identify them, we're able to recognise a dysfunctional system, and take more effective measures to fix it.
    Often times, we fail to recognise our mistakes, which perpetuates more short-term band-aid fixes, only to worsen the problem we're trying to fix (Vicious cycle).
    I won't go too in-depth into archetypes (yet), but if you're interested definitely do check them out:


    Shifting the Burden, example of a system Archetype

    I hope the examples below weren't too distracting, and helped explain the point.
    To conclude this post, I'd like to end with a well-known Sufi story that illustrates the linear-thinking perspective and the system-thinkers one, from Donella Meadows book.

    From Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella Meadows

    Beyond Ghor, there was a city. All its inhabitants were blind.

    A king with his entourage arrived nearby; he brought his army and camped in the desert. He had a mighty elephant, which he used to increase the people’s awe.

    The populace became anxious to see the elephant, and some sightless from among this blind community ran like fools to find it.

    As they did not even know the form or shape of the elephant, they groped sightlessly, gathering information by touching some part of it.

    Each thought that he knew something, because he could feel a part. . . .

    The man whose hand had reached an ear. . . said: “It is a large, rough thing, wide and broad, like a rug.”

    And the one who had felt the trunk said: “I have the real facts about it. It is like a straight and hollow pipe, awful and destructive.”

    The one who had felt its feet and legs said: “It is mighty and firm, like a pillar.”

    Each had felt one part out of many. Each had perceived it wrongly. . . .

    This ancient Sufi story was told to teach a simple lesson but one that we often ignore: The behaviour of a system cannot be known just by knowing the elements of which the system is made.

    [​IMG]
    If you enjoy wise Sufi stories, recommend Tales of the Dervishes by Idries Shah (link)


    Old, but timeless!
     
    #2 enjoypolo, Jan 4, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2020
  3. shamangineer

    shamangineer Well-Known Member

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    Adam Curtis' All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace is a good introduction to systems theory, cybernetics, and the strange origins of the ecosystem as a steady-state model. You can watch the first two episodes on Vimeo. Here is the third:

     
    #3 shamangineer, Feb 15, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2020
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  4. enjoypolo

    enjoypolo Moderator
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    Thanks for that link, Doc!
    The BBC documentary is not only eery but what a strange mash-up of many fascinating topics. A bit like a nightmarish tour of the subconscious.

    I’m not sure how it directly relates to system thinking, if not for the fact that every action is inextricably linked to an event popping up on the other side.


    Not sure I grasped what the scientist Hamilton was hinting at, that we are mere genetic automatons which could be modelled by computer models (?) This is the view espoused by the like of materialist scientists such as Dawkins and others (which just a few days ago made the headlines for his controversial views on eugenics).
    I now tend to view those mental models as a bit too simplistic and fatalistic in a holo-fractal universe, even if they’re worth serious consideration.

    But maybe that’s beside the main point of the film. In which case, my apologies :)

    PS: lately, I’ve been thinking about ways in which gaming could leverage the power of systems thinking. Because systems are everywhere, this would be a game in which a user would create, or simulate systems present in his/her environment. The result (goal) would be to visualize and optimize such systems in an interactive “gaming” environment.

    To push things further, this could involve multiple users to optimize the function of one system (e.g., optimize energy efficiency in a home/business/community; food resilience; personal finances..)
    I wonder if similar games already exist (mine craft?). But anyhow, just another stoner thought ;)
    This way of using gaming to solve concrete-world problems seems like a huge opportunity.

    The only related thing I can think of, is how some companies are using such games during the hiring process, to have insights into how a potential new hire acts within certain scenarios.

    https://resources.workable.com/stories-and-insights/gamification-in-recruiting-effectiveness
     
    #4 enjoypolo, Feb 19, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2020