Systemic non-reversible solutions are needed to ‘resolve’ our problematic situations.
A real resolution of our problematic situation(s) implies ‘change’ … a transitional change … and, permanent change: In systems science, this is referred to as a ‘non-reversible’ systemic change.
After all, it’d do no good to change ‘for the better’, only for the system to revert back to the same (or similar) problematic situation.
This is a true transformation – transforming the ‘whole’ system to achieve a ‘non-reversible’ resolution to the problematic situation(s).
Understanding systems and requires great effort to learn: there are various types of systems, each with many ‘aspects’ or component parts, and interconnections; there is the issue of ’scale’ and ’scope’ (scale of breadth and depth).
An excellent explanation is … ‘Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in Systems‘; by, Donella Meadows, founder of Sustainability Institute. This classic document provides a summary of dynamical systems by detailing the means by which they may be ‘changed’. Accessible for all readers, yet stimulating and insightful for specialists.
The notion of ‘leverage points’ is characteristic of ‘Systems Thinking’ and represent critical component aspects of systems that offer potential to initiate transitional systemic change.
For now, I’ll mention two particular ‘leverage point’ aspects of complex systems: ’Sensitivity to initial conditions’,and, ‘positive feedback’.
* ‘Sensitivity to initial conditions’ refers to the characteristic of dynamical systems, in which a small input or ‘change’ in the ‘initial condition’ can/will achieve a large output or result.
* ‘Positive feedback’: increasing returns … “success to the successful”; “winner takes all”; “s/he who has, gets”.
Without a sufficient understanding of the particular system, it is possible to put great effort into changing the wrong ‘component’ … only to achieve a small output/result … or worse, to further exacerbate the ‘original problem’, and/or complicate with the addition of new ‘problems’. This is ‘unintended consequences’ that is so prevalent. Such wastefulness (and potential harm) draws attention to the need for understanding systems.
A small change in initial conditions can establish a new positive feedback – a situation in which ‘getting’ provides the conditions to get more … which begets yet more.
Important! Whether this is beneficial or detrimental is another matter: ‘positive feedback’ refers to the cycle of ‘increasing returns’ in terms of quantity, and is not qualitative (good or bad). The word positive is purely quantitative, and simply means the systems undergoes a cycle of increase (the output is ‘cycled’ back in for another round of input). Compared with ‘negative feedback’, in which a system is ’self-regulating’ or ’self-balancing’ – ‘positive feedback’ is ’self-increasing’, so to speak.
To achieve true sustainability and resilience, requires systemic solutions to our eco/socio-economic ‘issues’.
Such solutions are systemic non-reversible changes … transitional: achieving a transformation to a new sustainable ‘form’ of society.
Understanding ‘Systems’ … particularly, Complex (Adaptive) Systems … and, by consequence, systemic change is absolutely essential is we’re to truly design real solutions.
Such an ‘understanding’ may well be the crucial ‘leverage point’ … this learning may be the ’small change’ of ‘initial conditions’ that sets about a beneficial ‘positive feedback’ of understanding with which society may actually progress in designing
Indeed, the ’small change of initial condition’ … in terms of learning about complex systems, sets in play a beneficial ‘positive feedback’ of understanding: this is a non-reversible transitional change of the complex adaptive neural system of ‘your’ mind … achieving a transformation of learning/understanding.
And this is very much a ‘fractal’ (structure) … features of the ‘whole’ are present in each of the various scaled components (’component wholes’).
‘Your’ mind/set is a complex adaptive neural system; ‘your’ learning/understanding is a sub-system.
Likewise, ‘your’ mind/set is a sub-system of a larger scale complex adaptive Social system (which includes economy, etc. as a social subsystem).
So, ‘your’ learning about complex systems and systemic change … is an instance of ‘Initial Condition Sensitivity’ that sets in play the beneficial ‘positive feedback’ of learning/understanding on various fractal scales … as ‘you’ come to see the world differently, and speak with family, friends, etc. … the learning is a positive feedback in which the initial ‘learning/understanding’ begets ever more.
And, the more people learn/understand, the more a transitional systemic social change is achieved in which society ‘as a whole’ has a systemic ’social mindset’.
Moreover, with this new emergent property of a new social understanding of systems will come both greater demand and capability for the very beneficial systemic transformational changes we need.
By seeking to learn/understand systems, the ‘Initial Condition Sensitivity’ sets in play a ‘Positive Feedback’ that transforms ‘your’ mindset … and on to transform Society to a Systems Mindset.
There is a duality to the ‘emergent property’ to this complex adaptive system: With this Social Systems Mindset, we’ll have achieved the systemic transitional change of both recognizing the need for systemic change and have improved our capability for designing systemic Solutions.
The first step of learning about complex systems … can/will achieve a quantum leap toward a sustainable society.
And, really, such a systems approach to designing solutions – achieving beneficial systemic change – is biomimetic: Systems are natural, and, by learning from and emulating nature is what biomimicry is all about.