The disappointment of systems approach LO20685

Roy Benford (
Wed, 17 Feb 1999 09:05:17 +0000

Replying to LO20660 --

Joey Chan wrote:

> I have read the current issue of The Economist(13th Feb) and there is a
> new book "Rescuing Prometheus" talking about the effectiveness of the
> systems approach. Actually, the review says that the book was praising the
> applications by the systems approach, especially those engineering systems
> such as the SAGE(Semi-Automated Ground Environment) project. However, the
> review had pointed out the disappointment of the systems approach in
> applying to social problems such as poverty, healthcare and crime. and the
> article accused "those systems enthusiasts woefully underestimated the
> complexity of human behaviour and the great quantities of computing power
> needed to model it in any meaningful way."

Firstly, who would want to live in a society that was based on a
mechanistic paradigm?

Secondly, a major issue with systems thinking in the social area is that
of defining boundaries. The act of drawing boundaries can disturb the
power structures that are in place. Existing power structures will try to
inforce boundaries to preserve their power. It is interesting that you
should have chosen three interlinked problem areas. The redrawing of
boundaries is likely to be a slow process as power is re-distributed in
society. Perhaps, the observer is expecting bigger and quicker
improvements in the area of social problems and not observing the slower
pace of change.

Roy Benford
Fulmer, UK


Roy Benford <>

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