towards the establishment of Systemry

Rough notes to accompany the conceptualization of the proposed conversation..

We are proposing a conversation that we hope will make significant progress towards the unification of Systems Science into an integrated whole. Arguably we don’t have one at the moment. If you ask people what system science is, even as an abstraction, you will get a different response each time. It is not possible to systematically apply or develop system science.

Science (from Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.

We could however, almost... describe the system engineering handbook and Body Of Knowledge as a starting point for systems science, or at least the branch of it that is systemry (the "doing" of systems). It is certainly possible to see many candidate principles embedded within the handbook and ISO processes.

But... with a well structured systems science that underpins our systems engineering we would, if it was applied correctly, be able to consistently transform systems with predictable results.

Unifying the efforts of our system scientists and our systems engineers might lead to enhancements on current techniques for manipulating systems and also help our system engineers get better at conceptualization.

What we aim to do initially is create a working consensus as to what system science is, so that we can move in the conversation to identifying and arranging the concepts required in an SS architecture that will provide the necessary scientific foundation for SE.Within this framework the methods of SS and SE can integrated as a more complete interconnected whole. Methods from systems science and engineering shall be applied as an aid to the conversation and draw on the experience of the team. 

When we think of the framework we begin to conceptualize, we foresee that it would provide a common language (system literacy) and consistent variables and patterns which can be used to compare systems to each other to predict which characteristics are associated with different realizations in the behavior and properties of systems (systemology)

It is important to act, because science should have a purpose and without unification, the usefulness of system science is impeded. It cannot be consistently taught, it cannot be consistently applied and it cannot be consistently researched and developed through practice. The current state of affairs is arguably disjointed and insufficiently connected with systems engineering which is a pity as there have been many methods developed in the domain of system science (SSM, SD, rich pictures, VSM) that could be really useful if we find a way of integrating them in the systems practice of understanding and solving problems.

We would like to conceive systems science, to architect and design it. To create something of value that can be used and applied in a scientific and systematic way.

The conceptualization of SS will depend on the knowledge of stakeholders, what their requirements are and what are their needs. We can aim to provide a visualization that captures peoples’ attention and excitement. We then need to understand the structure of SS, its features and qualities. We will to look at the lifecycle of its application in the transformation of systems. We need to incorporate the scientific methods of systems science, largely drawing upon existing materials which have been developed in the necessity of understanding, interacting, manipulating and engaging with systems.

Within systems engineering we have 50 years of practice, methods of approaches for systems development, and we also have 50 years of theorizing and conceptualizing systems from the system science community, imagine if we can bring all of these together within an architecture for the science as an integrated whole.

To date, the SE community has been doing their work according to the SEBOK but does not have a SS foundation. But we’ve learned how to do the architecture and the design of systems by trial and error. Where SE is weak is the conceptualization where methods such as Soft Systems, systemigrams have been developed. There has been no formally recognized conceptualization stage in the SEBOK, but some engineers do it simply because it is necessary. Seeing the big picture is conceptualization.

Arguably in the science community we’ve had something of a blind spot to the fact that Systems Arch, Design, Implementation are key mental endeavors that have been applied within systems engineering which should be considered within the context of systems science. Getting systems scientists more involved into research in these areas would open up additional possibilities for discovery (systemology, literacy and systemry) and close the loop between theory and practice. Also in the SE community we have lacked sufficient visibility, understanding and sometimes access to system science methods that could help in architecture and design. System scientists can help close this gap. 

Within systems we foresee systemical reactions that allows the perceiver/creator of the system to transform their perception from perceived chaos, perceived complexity, perceived compicatedness and perceived obvious. These reactions are conceptualisation (that allows you to make any sense at all of the situation), architecture that allows you to organise your understanding, design that lets you work out through analysis how the system works and implementation which when repeated makes the system obvious/day to day.

What we would like to do with the engineering and system science communities working together  is to start to identify and collate the methods within these systemical reactions to analyse the systemic concepts (or elements) such as hierarchy, structure, components, values etc… that are manipulated (just like the chemical elements but these systemical elements are tools we have in the mind for grasping systems). Interestingly we see the results of these systemical reactions being used to identify the different levels of abstraction of requirements. (Stakeholder, system, element, implementation)

Such a branch of system science (systemry) would complement systemology (which is the study of system patterns in nature and engineering). Systemology would add a great deal of insight into the possibility of better (for instance more sustainable, robust and agile) architectures, designs and implementations.

Systems Science spends most of it’s time in the Perceived Chaos-Conceptualization stage. But apart from case by case application by enthusiasts and forward thinkers it often doesn’t really lead to design and implementation as there is a disconnect between the academic and the practical. (Architecture - the organisation to make the difference perhaps being the gap).

In order to reach a common understanding and consensus, we need a conversation to include others to take into account diverse perspectives and needs. It’s important that what is created or what arises from this conversation is presented as a proposed architectural starting point for Systems Science. The transformation of systems through perceived chaos, perceived complexity, perceived complicatedness and perceived obvious reflects actual engineering experience and practice.

A movement towards delivering practical value in SS would lead to a step change in the SS community - moving us from theorizing to the actual establishment of the science.

If we integrate the SS and SE- we can make a framework that will greatly increase our ability to more successfully interact with systems and their environments. The benefit to being able to develop this, we will be able to make great strides in our understanding of systemry (analogous to chemistry). Because we will be working together, which is important because we will have a common language, we can integrate all the systems science methods. We are referring to the whole of the systems community across all domains of interest.

The Conversation will lead to an understanding of system science that better meets stakeholder needs. Doing so we can draw on not just systems engineering and our system science methods but we benefit from the analogy and development of chemistry.

Chemistry has always been there. Chemical interactions have always been there, no one invented chem. It’s the same with systemry- But in the case of chemistry, it was only when Mendelev created the periodic table, ie, the architecture, it was only then that we could understand how to effectively, consistently perform chemistry. Without proper scientific foundations, only experience (and luck) has told you that mixing two substances makes an explosion, adding carbon when melting iron makes it stronger etc.,  but nobody knew why.  Science allows to predict the behaviour. Alchemists, without science, were trying to turn lead in gold. In systems engineering, sometimes we try to turn a mess into a system.

With a true system science (which includes its literacy, systemology and systemry), we will endeavor to create an architecture that will allow us to more be confident in doing systems. Such that if we perform the systemical reactions of conceptualization, architecture, design and implementation with appropriate methods of systemry to transform systems, we will be able to effectively and consistently design systems that meet stakeholders needs every time…

We might be able to start to deduce what systemic reactions might look like and what systemic elements are being manipulated. A Conceptualisation systemical reaction might be something like the following: boundary + value = component + interaction, but in order to deduce these we should look at our methods. stock and flow diagrams, sequence diagrams, connectivity diagrams etc.

Knowledge Gaps-Needs Assessment - the situation as is:

·      80% of our projects in SE fields fail indicating a failure of the application of systems.

·      We have destroyed the planet and if we don’t do something we are in dire straits

·       There has never been a time where we have needed Systems Science more than we do now. Because the complexity and chaos in our world, much of which we have already put in place. We need a systems approach that can tackle this chaos.

·      There are examples of problems that did not include systems science because it was not recognized as a science, lacked credibility.

·      Development of pharmaceutical components- our efficiency and effectiveness of drug delivery programs has reduced 100 fold over the last 100 years. When what the last time you heard of a drug making a huge difference?

·      There are many projects that have employed the use of systems thinking but it has been largely on an ad hoc basis and therefore lacks a consistent approach and predictable outcome. How can you have respect for a discipline when you cant effectively communicate what it is?

This work will better define system science and make it more easily communicated and understood by everyone.


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