After our conversation on systems, she sat with a thoughtful face.
There seemed many questions behind the large eyes. Her expression was a mixture of wonder and thoughtfulness that was waiting to be mischievous.
We had just talked about systems being the wholes that we make up with others who come together for some purpose.
For instance, the market system that we make as buyers coming together with sellers. Our purpose is to obtain the goods or services that they offer. Their purpose is to secure our money in exchange for the goods or services they have on offer.
Or the banking system we make as lenders coming together with bankers. Our purpose is to secure interest from the money we lend to the bank. The bank’s purpose is to raise money that it can lend to others at a higher interest rate.
Or the different friendship systems we make when we come together with each other. Our purposes could be anything from provide or seek information, tell or listen to stories, have conversations, provide or seek advice, share goals, share emotions, provide or receive care, provide or receive understanding, and more.
Suddenly, the world around us was filled with the countless systems we were a part of. Each with different purposes. Most of which we had always confused and yet never noticed.
We had underlined that purpose was the reason an actor participates in a system. It is that which sustained the will of the actor to interact with others in the system. We had observed that purpose of an actor in a system is usually discovered by observing the will of the actor to interact, or the looking for the events desired by the actor, or the discovering the events that evoke feelings of satisfaction, accomplishment, or acceptance by the actor.
“So, if systems are the wholes we form with others when we come together with our purposes, what happens when we change our purposes?”, she said with a twinkle in her eyes.
“Would the new purpose still cause the same participants to come together?”, his face had a mischievous smile as he asked her to clarify where she was leading her understanding.
“Sometimes.” She said non-committally with a frown. She did not like the interruption.
“In any case, you have a different system.” I asserted, “When any actor in the system participates with a different purpose, they are now a different system.”
“Isn’t that just like renaming something because one of its parts has a different colour?” She smiled playfully.
“It’s so different from merely changing the colour of a part. It’s changing the purpose of participation. A different purpose will mean different interactions between the participants. Different interactions will mean the participants will experience different emergent behaviours in their system.” I responded.
They already knew that emergent behaviour was nothing but the events that happened in the system because of the interactions of the actors in the system.
“Wouldn’t this mean a system can go from being pleasant to unpleasant or vice versa by simply one actor changing the purpose of participation?” her voice was soft as it usually is when she makes an important point or when she expresses care.
“You have just articulated the power of purpose.” I smiled at her wide eyes.
“You are correct in wondering if a change in the purpose would still cause the same actors to come together”, I looked into his eyes as I addressed him, “Many times a change in the purpose of an actor results in withdrawal of the other actors from the system. And yes, the original system does not sustain itself.”
“How, then, can we recognize if a system still exists or not?” his question was deep and unusual.
“Only if we are trained to observe the purposes, the interactions, or the emergent behaviours. Most of the time, we simply look at interacting actors and call them a system. We forget that different interactions are different systems. A person who starts trading with another friend may not recognize the two independent purposes and confuse their interactions as a friend with interactions as buyers and sellers. This means that if the person stops being a friend but continues trading or continues being a friend and stops trading may appear to an untrained observer to be the same system. Because both systems have different purposes, they are different. As are the emergent behaviours that will result from them. And the consequent experiences the participants in these systems will have.” My gaze questioned if he had understood what I had to say.
“Don’t people confuse the purposes they have in different systems?” he looked at me questioningly. He had understood the idea of systems clearly.
“Of course, they do.” She answered in my place, “They are confused all the time. They do not recognize the difference between exchanging information and giving and receiving care, between sharing goals and providing or receiving understanding. They do not recognize these as independent systems that require different interactions.
They imagine all interactions are similar. And then they wonder why their experiences of the interactions with the same person are different.”
“Isn’t that why we should talk about the purposes for which we come together?” he asked rhetorically as he continued, “And when actors don’t engage in conversations about purposes, observe the will of each actor to interact? Or learn to notice the events each actor desires? Or observe the feelings of satisfaction, accomplishment, or acceptance that different events evoke for each actor?”
I smiled at him. I looked at her. Then I looked at him. We all had a look of satisfaction. Of accomplishment.
#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and/or individuals and institutions that may be quoted and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same.
He can be reached @AnupamSaraph