Do we need a “third way” in Systems?

Heresy or well meaning intervention?

A couple of days ago I read the article: Machine Behavior Needs to Be an Academic Discipline by Iyad Rahwan & Manuel Cebrian. The piece asks if we need to consider new ways of thinking about what we are potentially creating with our developments in Artificial Intelligence , or “AI”.

Before I discuss the article let me consider the introduction to the late Donella Meadows book: Thinking in Systems, where she talks about some of the thinking patterns generated when applying systems thinking which may be considered by those of a more traditional outlook as being “Heretical”. As such I hope that this post is seen as neither “heretical”, nor even “luddite”, but an attempt at articulating a problem which has hitherto been left unclear.

Systems of AI”

forward-3210940_640For a few years now we’ve seen high profile denouncements of AI by the likes of Elon Musk, and the late Stephen Hawking. Many of these have been reported at a very high level with little view expressed as to what these influential people actually thought the problems we would be facing could be. Some recognise that AI could replace humans, but how and when? Continue reading

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The Big “O” is coming


I’ve blogged elsewhere about my dismay at fads in IT: “Enterprise Architecture”, and “Big Data” being a couple that I may have mentioned. Today I am recording what I think is going to be the next big fad, but one that I believe is becoming increasingly necessary.

I’ll name it now rather than keep you in suspense for any longer … “Orchestration”

So what is driving this? Continue reading

Sneaking in the Systems Thinking

Several years ago I started my course with the Open University in Systems Thinking in Practice. At that time it was pretty much new, I was on the first cohort for the Systemic Inquiry module, and the second cohort for the Systems Tools for Strategic Thinking module. I understand that, several years later, the modules are a great success and in high demand. And rightly so.

I suspect that like a lot of my fellow students, I set off with zeal of a convert. I foresaw that I would be changing the lives of those around me with the new tools that I was learning about. Armed with the new insight that I was helping to reveal to everyone that I would be helping to drive things forward.

Instead, I learned to keep ST pretty much to myself, to use it quietly in the background. I had hoped that colleagues, dazzled by what I was able to reveal, would clamour to find out how I did it. From that point I could share what I had learned. Over time the world would become a significantly better place as we understood how to do the “right things”.

The course is well behind me now, and yes, I frequently use a lot of what I learned to help me in my daily life. I still add to my Systems Thinking armoury through my own efforts  but my hope of sharing this stuff for the better  remains unfulfilled.

Why is this?

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Was the Termintor wrong? It seems so

Four years ago I was moved to write a post “Was the Terminator so wrong after all?” based on a Gartner analyst making statements about the state of computer capability to make decisions. At the time I expressed some concern about where our automation of decision capabilities could lead us, and I wondered whether the scenarios painted in the terminator films of machines overtaking man could become reality.

Elsewhere I also made a comment or two about Big Data, and the hype at that time about it being able to solve all of our problems. Well, the raging IT skeptic in me is pleased to say that the outlook is brighter, or dimmer depending upon you point of view, than I had anticipated at that time.

The big news crossing my field of interest is a paper published by Ted Schadler et al at Forrester, and Ted’s blog post: Digital Insights Are the New Currency of Business which I suggest turns out to be both good and bad news.

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“It depends …. ”

Oh, how we must like quizzes. It feels that every time I venture into the world of Facebook, I am exhorted to click on a quiz to determine what sort of something or other I am. It seems we want to be able to categorise ourselves, and quickly too judging from the few questions that seem to be able to measure and then categorise me in a matter of moments.

Whilst these quizzes can be a little bit of fun, as well as being totally useless, my concern is that this thinking actually pervades our working lives as well as that we have at home.

I work as an internal consultant, advising my business colleagues. Some of my work involves helping my various colleagues to understand situations they find themselves in. Outside of work, I also offer advice and discourse on a closed social network which is primarily for IT practitioners trying to help each other. In both these environments there are questions asked that frequently get answered with the same phrase:

“Well …. It depends…”

Continue reading