A closed system that has so many variables that the human mind sees it as an open system.
But even if the human mind cannot comprehend the system itself, does not mean it doesn’t exist.
As an underlying current in nearly all aspects of life that, it is taken for granted and remains unseen to many. This is the idea of general systems, general systems theory, and general systems thinking. Although it is a simple concept that can become infinitely complex. It is used to identify and understand everything that man has come to interact with. Therefore, if one fully comprehends the ideas emplaced in general systems theory, it will allow them to have a foundation to understand everything else.
Because unlike most people, general system theorists do not create a new system for each thing they learn and understand, but apply what they learn to the tried & true system they have already honed in their learning and thinking process.
In essence, people in general create millions of systems and processes inside their minds as they learn. But a general systems theorist brings all those systems into one and simply moots the outputs and inputs to satisfy the new stimuli or information.
In becoming a Meta Learner, you must stop creating new processes and systems with each new subject you learn. You must instead turn your mind into an information placing machine, that constantly takes in it, places it in the different outputs and inputs, and allowing you to associate it to the patterns, processes, and systems you know previously.
This can be done by training the mind to think in visuals (pictures & flowcharts), diagrams (Venn and Fish & Bone), and webs (ecosystems). As you need to see each new piece of information as a puzzle piece that fits in the general systems in life. As you collect more, the easier it is to get the gist of how the different inputs and outputs affect the system itself. As small pieces make small differences and big pieces affect in big ways.
This can be applied in all aspects of life from markets, economics, sciences, societies, and more.
The clear definition of systems, systems theory, and systems thinking is as follows:
Systems - a group or combination of interrelated, interdependent, or interacting elements forming a collective entity; a methodical or coordinated assemblage of parts, facts, concepts
General System Theory - Systems theory is a trans-disciplinary approach that abstracts and considers a system as a set of independent and interacting parts. The main goal is to study general principles of system functioning to be applied to all types of systems in all fields of research.
Systems Thinking – Understanding that everything, to include chaos, has an organization to it and being able to formulate a structure to simplify the inputs and outputs to understand, comprehend, experiment, and enhance it in nature or synthetics
Types of Systems
There are a few types of general systems to include Open vs. Closed, finite vs. infinite, and real vs. theoretical. Each one is in essence on the other side of the spectrum of each other.
Closed System - A closed system as its name implies is a system that is not affected by its outside environment. An example is the chemical reactions and the electrical wiring of a house.
Open System – an open system is one that is affected by its outside environment such as the human body. It is affected by temperature, food/water, shelter, and culture.
Finite System – a finite system is a system that can only be sustained as long as it has input to allow it to run. An example would be a car with a gas tank. The car would be the finite system as the fuel would be the input.
Infinite System – an infinite system is a system that has the ability to run perpetually forever and is nearly impossible to obtain, but is useful in the theory and practice of sustainability. An example would be wind energy through a windmill to power a house.
Real System – A real system is a system that works in reality and given to “human” forces produces a desired result in the real world. An example would be an ecosystem model that monitors and lists every factor that ultimately affects the system.
Theoretical System – Theoretical systems are those that cannot exist, but provide models to simplify and build Real System Models. An example is Closed Systems as every system cannot be created in a vacuum and is affected by process losses and its environment in some way.
How Systems Work
There are three main bodies one needs to know to fully comprehend a system. These are known as the stock, inflows/inputs, and outflows/outputs.
Stock – is defined as a “whole” that has a unit of measure which reacts to inflows/inputs and outflows/outputs.
Inflows/inputs – are defined as units of measure that affect the stock by going into it. The difference between inflows and inputs is the “human” or outside factor. Because inflows natural stream into the system and inputs are added from an outside force with intention.
Outflows/outputs – are defined as units of measure that affect the stock by going out of it. The difference between outflows and outputs is the “human” or outside factor. Because outflows natural stream out of the system and outputs are intended results desired by an outside force.
Thus, a simple system to understand is a lake. The amount of liters in a lake would be considered the stock. The inflows/inputs would be any flow of liters into the lake that increase the stock while outflows/outputs would be any flow of liters out to decrease the stock.
As anything in life if not more so with systems, there is a constant struggle to find balance. In that struggle, there are 3 levels that a system can reach. They are known as Unsaturated, Harmony, and Saturated.
This level is achieved in a system by having outflows surpass inflows. When that happens, the system dries up and quits functioning. Like a bank account, if the money spent outweighs the money saved then the bank account quits functioning as you won’t use it. If the outflows are severe enough then the system will implode in on itself as if you begin to charge your bank account into the negative, the bank will close your account down.
This level is achieved by having inflows equal to outflows. This is what all systems want to attain as it will allow the system to function perpetually. An example is temperature, as it gets hot, we use ac, as it gets cold, and we use a boiler, thus trying to maintain that comfortable or harmonious temperature.
This level is achieved when the inflows surpass outflows. When this happens, depending on what type of system it is, the result is beneficial or disastrous. In a system that can handle and sustain an infinite amount of inflow and force such as a bank account, then the system will be infinitely beneficial. However, if the system is unable to handle excess force or overflow. It will explode as it can’t take the intake. An example of this would be an engine that can only handle a certain load. If the load is too much for the engine, the engine will explode as it can’t take it. In all, Saturated Systems are running at full capacity.
Taking these lessons to heart will allow you to think as a General Systems Theorist. Understanding how inputs and outputs affect stock will allow you to easily take everything you learn from now on and plug it into what you already know. Instead, of reinventing the wheel like most people do. You now can build upon your knowledge to create something even better without having to start from scratch.