The Limits of Systems Analysis In Dealing With Complex Systems

Excerpts

“America is a nation filled with problem solvers who seem to favor analytical or engineering methods. An analytical approach is a powerful one for those difficulties whose underlying logic or organizing system is linear. Authorities sometimes refer to these systems as “structurally complex.””

“Too few American recognize a second class of problems, those whose underlying logic or organizing system is dynamic or non-linear. Analytical approaches are usually inadequate for this class of problems. Authorities often call these systems “interactively complex.” These systems frequently have great freedom of action among their elements or parts. Thus, rather than cause and effect,we frequently observe cascading effects where a single cause produces multiple outcomes that ripple through the system in all directions. In theory we should be able to trace the results or effects of eachaction. In reality we cannot follow them in any meaningful sense because the interactions quickly progress to a point where no computer can handle the calculations needed to track them.”

In actuality, SoSA [system-of-system-analysis] relies on the techniques of formal systems analysis. Vietnam War veterans quickly recognized SoSA as virtually identical to the analytical methods that Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara foisted upon the U.S. military in the 1960s with so many disastrous results.”

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01. January 2010 by Miguel Barbosa
Categories: Curated Readings, Risk & Uncertainty | Leave a comment

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