Systems as Organisms

Seeing complexity, disequilibrium, and entropy help us understand how and why systems act like organisms. Remember the bathtub illustration? That system of mining, construction, repair, treatment, harvesting, and discharge has striking similarities to the complexity of your physical, metabolic biology. After all, water systems are built by living organisms for the purpose of providing dependable access to clean water.

This means we need to think about life systems — such as human societies and the organizations that humans make — differently than we think about other kinds of complicated problem.


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Shelley, James. (2020). 'Systems as Organisms' (in System Thinker Notebook). Originally published on August 5, 2020. Accessed on October 31, 2020. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permalink: https://jamesshelley.com?p=17052
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