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Changing systems

Those systems that don’t produce the outcomes we desire? We can change them, right?
The theory is easy. There’re inputs and outputs. We say we want more of this than that, and we set it to accept certain types of inputs, and tweak the desired output level, and voila.
The reality is complicated. Systems are not simple black-box processes we can toy with in isolation. They exist in relationship with other systems. Sometimes they’re part of massively nested sets of such complexity that it’s really hard to figure out what’s going on, let alone understand what changes will have what effects (see: the global economy).
Economists are a perfect case, actually. Lots of extremely smart people invest a lot of time into developing comprehensive models of the economic system, what goes in and what comes out and how changing x will affect y. Everything’s riding on these models – everyone wants them to be accurate as they can be. But, as those who heard This American Life last week know, even the most highly paid analysts don’t really know what the heck is going on.
For any system complex enough to survive in the real world, it’s tough to make adjustments that give the desired results, and even tougher to make adjustments that only give the desired results.
This doesn’t make us helpless, though, because every system is ultimately responsive to our human characteristics. This fact might give us some clues about where might find points of intervention.
(to be continued, but in a few days, because I need to think this next step through some more. and some examples might be nice too, instead of just talking in generalities all the time)
(I had planned to blog about something completely different all this week, but this is what’s come out. huh.)

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