The Curious Case Of Systems Illiteracy And Its Negative Impact

Climate change
Image used for representation only.

 

Let’s collect the best ingredients from the kitchen and put them together. We wouldn’t have the best recipe, would we? We wouldn’t even have something edible. 

What makes something edible is not the individual ingredients but the recipe. What makes a good recipe is not the ingredients but the result of the interactions of its ingredients. The individual ingredients do not have the property of the recipe. The interactions of the ingredients are what results in the property of the recipe.

If we collect the best cooks, the best kitchens, the best ingredients and the best recipes, we do not have the best restaurants. We may not even have a restaurant. The restaurant is more than the sum of its parts. It is the result of the interactions of its parts. None of the parts have the property of a good restaurant, it is only the interactions of the parts that do.

If we collect the best cooks, best teachers, best engineers, best doctors, best farmers and so on, we do not have the worlds best community. We may not even have a community. A community is not the sum of its parts. It is the result of the interactions of its parts. None of the individuals in the community have the properties of the community, it is the interactions of the individuals that do.

If we collect together the best roads, best schools, best, hospitals, best farms, best entertainment centers and put them together, we do not have the best livable city.

We may not even have a livable city. None of the infrastructure of a city has the properties to make it the best livable city. It doesn’t have the properties to make it livable either. It is the interactions of the parts that make up the city that do.

If we put together the best automobile industry, the best technology industry, the best financial industry, the best consumable industry we do not get the best sustainable economy. In fact, we may not have a sustainable economy at all. None of these industries have the properties of the economy. It is the interactions of the parts that make up the economy that do.

If we put together the executive, legislature, and judiciary with the best and the brightest persons, we will not get the best government. In fact, we may not get a government at all. None of these have the property of good government. It is the interaction of these parts that make up the government that do.

The whole is the system that results from the interactions of the parts.

The parts do not have the properties of the whole that make the whole not only functional but invaluable. The parts cannot accomplish the purpose that the whole can and often does. Whether sourcing the best manpower, infrastructure, material or even information, few recognize that it is worthless to do so unless the interactions of these with the other parts can result in the whole system that we desire.

Solution shopping in our world takes apart Humpty Dumpty with the intention to put in the best parts to upgrade the functional whole. Every economy wants to have the best industries. Every city wants the smartest infrastructure. Every business wants the smartest people. Every recipe wants the best ingredients. We even want designer individuals, designer animals and designer plants. In the name of innovation and progress, we tear apart our systems that made them what they are and put together the parts which have no ability to interact together to provide systems. Certainly not the systems where the interaction of the parts will result in the properties that serve the purposes for which the parts came together in the first place. We do not understand systems. We may be very intelligent, yet we are systems illiterate. 

When we pull apart natures plumbing, its streams, rivers, ground water flows, and replace it with the best engineering for storing or transporting water we don’t get a water system, we destroy the water system that sustains our water cycles.

When we replace forests with “green” transportation systems that will “fix” our cities growing mobility needs, we destroy not just our forest, we destroy our city. When we pull apart communities in the name of progress, we don’t get progress, we destroy the harmony of the community that makes our life come alive.

When we pull apart economies to modernize them, or to bring them in to the mainstream, we don’t get modernization or mainstreaming. We destroy them.

Systems illiteracy promotes the short-term over the Short-Now, the lifetime of a child born today. Systems illiteracy destroys the systems that not only bring the functionality but also value and beauty to our world.

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#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same. 

Anupam Saraph

Anupam Saraph

Dr. Anupam Saraph grew up in a Pune that was possibly a tenth of its current expanse and every road was lined by 200 year old trees. He’s committed to the cause of de-addicting the short-termers.

He can be reached @AnupamSaraph
Anupam Saraph

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