My question is whether System Dynamics has anything fundamental or unique to
say about the nature of the universe.
Let me explain:
"System Dynamics" (it seems to me) is about making explicit our "mental
models" of how we each think the world works, and converting them into
computer models, which can then be used to make predictions. A "good" model
makes an accurate prediction, and so on.
As a reflection of this, we see that much (all?) of the discussion on these
pages falls into just two categories:
1) "What are the key factors affecting Problem X, and how do they fit
2) "What are the tricks for converting this mental model into a computer
In the first case we are not the experts. The people who really know the
answers to these questions are the ones who work in each particular field,
whether it is healthcare, sustainability, anti-terrorism, car hire,
manufacturing controls, corporate incentives, the evolution of language, ...
But those people may not know what they know, and so we can help them to
make their mental models explicit -- to understand what is important and
what is not, and to see the wider consequences of their (hidden) knowledge.
In the second case, our discussions are about what are the basic building
blocks that models can be made out of. As a result our discussions tend to
get a bit metaphysical: for example, "Is time discrete or continuous?", "Can
SD models learn?", "Is the world full of Bath Tubs?", and so on.
This should not surprise us, because in asking "What are the building blocks
that models can be made of?", we are really asking "What are the building
blocks that we think our universe is made of?".
And so our discussions move into the areas of philosophy and psychology --
areas in which (again) we are not the "experts".
But perhaps we ARE the "experts" at something: Experts at converting mental
models into measurable predictions, in whatever field.
And on the principle that "if it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and
walks like a duck then it probably is a duck" it is probably then safe for
us to assume that the universe works in pretty much the same way as our
(best) models do.
In this way, "System Dynamics" is a useful tool that helps us get a better
(scientific) understanding of how any one part of the universe works.
MY QUESTION IS THIS:
Does the "System Dynamic" view of the world have anything fundamental or
unique OF ITS OWN to say about the way the universe AS A WHOLE works...in
the way that (say) Complexity Theory might, or Quantum Physics, or
Buddhism/Taoism, or Gestalt, or [insert your chosen field here] ?
Or is it purely a tool for making manifest what is hidden in other peoples
world views of different parts of it ?
From: "Finn Jackson" <Finn.Jackson@Tangley.Com>