HUMAN SYSTEMS – revisited

PROPOSITION:  The sci/tech of Human-Systems (systems with human persons as the basic components) is vastly inferior to the sci/tech of systems where humans and human agency don’t (or is assumed don’t) exist as part of or influencing the system.

All our knowledge of systems is within human systems, as humans observe and record data for later human observation and analysis. All that we experience is ourselves, as autopoietic systems.

This proposition implies that all our models and efforts to influence human systems seriously lack the robustness and dependability of sci/tech foundations for the sci/tech advances of the past few centuries and continuing to accelerate.

This has been noted by the hard/soft distinction, often as a put-down by hard to soft. The soft defend by rightly pointing out that they focus on far more complex systems and that their sci/tech is more “difficult”, vs the relatively “easy” systems of physics.

Human systems are indeed more difficult to study for reasons beyond their greater complexity; namely that humans are studying humans.

Might it be, that the primary reasons why humankind is facing a potentially catastrophic Crisis-of-Crises and appears unable to rectify  this situation is that we are using inaccurate, incomplete, and often false models and theories about everything human – while, at the same time, believing “we” are the best.  “We” being not the whole of humankind, but ourselves and those others we identify as being “good”, the “best”, “sacred”, “uniquely endowed”, etc.

Might this arrogance come, in part, from the recent advances in the research of our bodies and brains. For this essay I will classify such research as not of human systems, as the systems studied are molecular, cellular, and physiological. All truly human systems, for this essay, have at least one, whole human person in a relevant  material environment not containing any other humans. Human systems may contain many human persons, and always material objects and environments (of which we may have quality scientific knowledge about how they function).

Functional MRIs of human brains while having selected experiences, and the influence of the human microbiome on responses to psychological tests are not – in this framework – the study of human systems. The results of such experiments may well greatly assist our studies of human systems – just as how an airplane flys of how nuclear fission happens influences human systems.

I won’t attempt to cite a complete list of academic disciplines that would be included as studying human systems. The would include, psychology, sociology, anthropology, archeology, economics. Agriculture, as the study of plant growth is not a human system study, but why and we “grow” the plants we do, would be a feature of a human system study. For what I hope to clarify in this essay, it isn’t important that the demarcation between human and non-human systems be sharp.

Personal, Social , Societal – 3 distinct systems

The first two systems, personal and social, are “observable”. The third systems, societal, are no more observable than quarks, yet we often treat them as if they were observable and use metaphors from the personal and social in communicating about them – which can cause difficulty.

What do we mean when we observer something?  When we met our friend a number of times, how do we really know it is the same person? We never observe the whole of a thing at the same time.

Things that have identity permanence are mental constructs and when we observe different parts/views at different times, these assemble as related (coherent?) patterns of brain activity. This is wired into our mammalian perceptual system and intuit the presences of a familiar thing – be it a person, a family, or a tribe.

Societies didn’t exist until well after this perceptual process had evolved. We observe many instances that are said to occur within an economic, government, corporate, educational system – societal systems.  Using our intuition competencies that emerged for persons, families, and tribes we believe that we “observe” these societal systems when we perceive a small part. But, these societal systems are as phantoms – illusions – there but not there.

I propose that today, we – persons and social systems – by being within societal systems, no long function as persons and tribes functioned when there were no societal systems. This has forced expressions/behaviors by persons and social systems of a far greater variety than before. Societal systems – even if unobservable – constrain the development (nurture) of human persons’ propensities/potentials (nature), so that there is a much greater variation/diversity among human person’s phenotypes than in tribal times. This, in turn increases the variety of social systems and, subsequently, societal systems.

Author: nuet

01/24/1935. BS-physics RPI 1956; MS-physics UofChicago 1958; PhD-physics Yale 1965; PhD-Edu Psy Uof MInnesota 1970. Auroral Research Byrd Station, Antarctica 11/1960-02/1962. MINNEMAST curriculum dev 1964-68. Woodstock. faculty Pima Community College, Tucson 1974-1997. Transdisciplinary scientist, philosopher, educator, futurist, activist. PC user since 1982. "Wife". daughter, 2 grandsons. 5 dogs & 7 cats. Lacks mental imagery in all sensory domains.