The Systems View of the World
By Ervin Laszlo
Subtitle: A Holistic Vision for Our Time. This is quite a short book, one of those books that proposes a simple yet powerful framework or way of looking at and thinking about the world. In this case: systems!
I like systems. They form important, flexible and rich scaffolding for many areas, often investing simple ideas with great meaning and explanatory power. In this book, Laszlo takes the view that understanding the meaning behind the complex formulas of science is more important than ever, and he attempts to explain the systems view of the world as the paradigm of the latest scientific developments.
Systems thinking “leads to a new world view, integrating the sciences of nature and man. It is a world view for our times, explaining some some of our most cherished successes and some of our most distressing problems, and showing ways to resume progress toward new achievements.” Laszlo has contributed greatly to this field of study, and in this book — just a hundred pages long, apparently! — he succinctly summarizes its ideas, postulating a four-part “systems view of nature”. As he describes them, systems are: wholes with irreducible properties; self-maintaining in changing environments; self-creating in response to self-creativity in other systems; and finally they are “coordinating interfaces in nature’s holarchy.”
I don’t know exactly what the above-summarized four points mean in practical terms; the book is apparently rather philosophical and abstract, rather than super specific and pragmatic in how to work with systems. But still, it seems to provide quite an interesting perspective, and a great introduction to concepts like consilience, unity, organization, connection, and universality. One reviewer exclaims that Laszlo’s ideas open “…a world of holism, growth and new paths to a more peaceful world!”