Synthetic Properties of the System

Now let’s move on to the third group of system properties — synthetic. This term refers to the generalizing, collective, and integral properties that take into account what was said before, but focus on the interaction of the system with the environment, as well as on the integrity of nature in the most general sense.

Emergence is the ninth property of the system. Perhaps, this property more than all others speaks about the nature of systems. Let’s start with examples.

Mechanical example. With two interacting cobblestones, you can produce effects that are impossible when used separately: knocking, carving sparks, pounding nuts, etc.

Chemical example. When hydrogen is combined with oxygen, each having a number of special properties, the H20 formula creates a new wonderful substance — water. The properties of water, many of which are not fully understood still (the role of water in living and inanimate nature, melt water, magnetized water, with their differences from ordinary water, water memory, etc.), are not derived from the properties of hydrogen and oxygen.

Biological example. Male and female individuals of a bipolar population each have their own individual characteristics. But only at their connection there is an opportunity give birth to new generation, formation of society, etc.

Logical and mathematical example. Let us have two black boxes with one input and one output. Each of them can work only with integers and perform only one simple operation: add one to the number at the input (see Figure 2.9). Let’s connect them now in the system according to the ring scheme (see Figure 2.10). We have a system 5, without inputs and with two outputs.

Separate elements of many similar ones in a system

FIGURE 2.9 Separate elements of many similar ones in a system.

At each cycle of operation, the scheme will produce a larger number, and it is remarkable that only even numbers will appear on one output, and odd numbers only on the other output. Isn’t that a beautiful example of emergence?

Now we draw conclusions. Combining parts into a system gives the system new qualitative properties that are not reduced to the properties of the parts, are not derived from the properties of the parts, are inherent only in the system itself, and exist only as long as the system is one whole. The system is more than just a collection of parts. The qualities of the system, inherent only to it, are called emergent (from the English “arise”).

Where do emergent properties come from if none of the parts have them? What is responsible for their appearance in the system? The answer is found in the logical mathematical example. Let’s connect the same two black boxes in a different way in parallel (see Figure 2.11).

The resulting S2 system has one input and one output. If you enter the number «, the output will be n +1. It turns out that S2 is arithmetically identical to each element, and its arithmetic property is not emergent (unlike 5,)! But we already know that the system necessarily has emergent properties. It turns out that S2 has the ability to perform operation n +1 even if one of the elements fails, that is, increased reliability. In reliability theory, this method is known as redundancy — improving reliability by introducing redundancy into the system.

It is easy to see that 5, and S2, consisting of the same number of identical elements, differ only in the scheme of their connections, that is, in the structure. The structure of the system determines its emergent properties.

Let’s sum up.

  • 1. The system has emergent properties that cannot be explained or expressed through the properties of its individual parts. Therefore, in particular, not all biological laws can be reduced to physical and chemical; social to biological and economic; computer properties cannot be explained only through electrical and mechanical laws.
  • 2. The source and the carrier of emergent properties is the structure of the system: in different structures, systems formed from the same elements have different properties.
  • 3. The system has also nonemergent properties that are the same as the properties of its parts. For example, for technical systems, it is volume, mass; and arithmetic for S2, etc. The system on the whole may have nonemergent properties (e.g., car coloring). An important and interesting case where parts

of the system have the properties of the system as a whole is the so-called fractal construction of the system. In this case, the principles of structuring parts are the same as that of the system as a whole. Fractals are observed in nature (hierarchical organization in living organisms, the identity of the organization at different levels in naturally growing systems, i.e., biological, geological, demographic, etc.), and mathematicians have developed an abstract theory of fractals.

  • 4. Emergence demonstrates another facet of integrity. The system acts as a whole because it is the carrier of the emergent property: it will not be whole, and the property will disappear; if this property is manifested, then the system is intact. For example, none of the parts of the plane can fly, but the plane flies.
  • 5. Emergence is another more developed form of expression of the law of dialectics on the transition of quantity to quality. It turns out that for the transition to a new' quality, the “accumulation” of quantities is not necessary (“the last drop overflowed the bowl”, “the last straw' broke the back of a camel”). For the emergence of the new quality, it is enough to combine into a whole at least two elements.
  • 6. Note that the dynamic aspect of emergence is denoted by a separate term, synergy, and extensive literature is devoted to the study of synergetics.
  • 7. It is interesting to note that w'hile in artificial systems the emergent property arises from the intentional joining of selected parts, in natural systems, emergence determines which parts are to be joined and how they are to interact. So, a living organism defines the meaning of the skeleton, heart, liver, and lungs; a family gives meaning to the roles of husband, w'ife, and their children. (The emergence of the first is survival in the natural environment, and of the second survival in the social.)
  • 8. The action of the system depends more on how its parts interact than on how they act on their own. Therefore, improving the actions of individual departments of the organization does not necessarily lead to an improvement of the entire organization, and often even vice versa (in mathematics, this is manifested in the difference between local and global optimization; in business, in the form of the expediency of producing unprofitable goods for the sake of increasing the sale of profitable ones).

The main recommendation to managers at any level is that they are not so much engaged in improving the work of individual parts of their unit as in improving the interaction between them and the links of their unit w'ith the environment. An example is the work of an orchestra conductor. He does not tell musicians how to play instruments: they know how to do it better than him. His business is not to control their actions but their interactions. Here, factors such as tracking orchestra players for the actions of others, the presence of a common score, the desire of each to join the harmony, and teamwork begin to play an important role. The w'ork of a leader is even more difficult than that of an orchestra conductor.

Inseparability into parts is the tenth property of the system. Although this property is a simple consequence of emergence, its practical importance is so great, and its underestimation occurs so often that it is advisable to emphasize it separately. If we need the system itself, and not something else, then it cannot be divided into parts.

When a part of the system is removed from the system, two important events occur.

First, it changes the composition of the system, and hence its structure. It will be another system, with different properties. Because of the properties of the old system, a lot, some property associated with this part, will disappear (it can be emergent, and not those, for example, compare the loss of phalanx of finger for a pianist, geologist, guitarist, and carpenter). Some property changes, but some will remain the same. Some properties of the system are not significantly associated with the withdrawn part.

We emphasize once again that whether the withdrawal of a part from the system will be significant is the question of assessing the consequences. Therefore, for example, consent of a surgical operation is requested from the patient, and not everyone agrees to it.

The second important consequence of removing a part from the system is that the part inside and outside the system is not the same. Its properties are changed as the properties of the object are manifested in interactions with the surrounding objects, and when removed from the system, the environment of the element becomes completely different. The amputated hand will not grab anything; the pulled out eye will not see anything.

It would, however, be wrong to absolutize the indivisibility of systems. For example, this would mean a ban on surgical operations, or on the organizational transformation of enterprises. It is only necessary to clearly realize that after the separation we are dealing with other systems. This is especially important in the analytical study of the system when its parts are considered separately. Special care is required to maintain the links of the considered part with the rest of the system.

Inherence is the eleventh property of the system. The more the system is inherent, the better it is matched and adapted to the environment compatible with it (inherent means being an integral part of something). The degree of inherence varies and can change (learning, forgetting, evolution, reform, development, degradation, etc.).

The fact that all systems are open does not mean that they are all equally well aligned with the environment. Consider the function “swim in the water” and compare the quality of this function in such systems as fish, dolphin, and scuba diver. They are ordered in the obvious way: fish do not need to leave the aquatic environment at all; dolphin must breathe air; and scuba diver’s options are limited capacity of the air cylinder, not to mention the physical and physiological limitations.

The expediency of emphasizing inherence as one of the fundamental properties of systems is caused by the fact that the degree and quality of the implementation of the selected function by the system depend on it. In natural systems, inherence is increased by natural selection. In artificial systems, it should be a special concern of the designer. Illustrative examples include preparation for transplantation of the donor organ and the patient’s body, exchange of cultural values, and introduction of technical innovations.

In some cases, inherence is provided by intermediary systems. Let’s consider some examples. The hieroglyphic writing of the ancient Egyptians could be deciphered only with the help of the Rosetta stone, on one side of which was the inscription in hieroglyphs (noncoherent to modern culture), and on the other the same inscription in ancient Greek, known to modern specialists. Another example is the adapters to connect European electric appliances to American plug sockets. Another example is the work of an interpreter between two individuals speaking different languages. Medical example: in Tomsk, Professor G. Dombayev developed a method for treating diabetes by transplanting the cells of the calf gland to a patient. But the human body quickly detects alien (noncoherent) implant and rejects it. However, for some reason, the body does not reject some metals (war invalids sometimes live their lives with metal fragments in the body). The solution was found in implanting a porous metal capsule with the cells of someone else’s healing gland into the patient’s body.

The problem of inherence is important in all cases of working with systems. Striking examples are management and leadership (compatibility of the head with the supervised ones), marketing and innovation (the inherency of the proposed product to the target consumers), pedagogical skills (coordination of the teacher with the audience), standardization service (care about the compatibility of products produced at different enterprises), training of illegal spies (ensuring their indistinguish- ability from the citizens of the country under investigation), etc.

In conclusion, we emphasize that inherence is not an absolute property of the system and is tied to a specific function. In particular, if we take our example of a fish, a dolphin, and a scuba diver in water and consider the same situation with respect to the function “to carry out electric welding under water”, then these three systems will be ordered by the inherency in a completely different order.

Purposefulness is the twelfth property of the system. In man-made systems, the subordination of all (both composition and structure) to the goal is so obvious that it should be recognized as a fundamental property of any artificial system. Let’s call this property purposefulness. The purpose for which the system is created determines which emergent property will ensure the realization of the goal, and this, in turn, dictates the choice of the composition and structure of the system. One definition of the system is that the system is a means to an end. The implication is that if the proposed goal cannot be achieved at the expense of the existing opportunities, then the subject composes from the surrounding objects a new system, specially created to help achieve this goal. It is worth noting that rarely the goal uniquely determines the composition and structure of the created systems: it is important to implement the desired function, and this can often be achieved in different ways. At the same time, attention is drawn to the similarity of the structure of different representatives within the same type of systems (living organisms, vehicles, planetary systems, mineral deposits, etc.).

The problem of purposefulness in the nature. Turning to the natural objects, we find that they have all the previous 11 properties of systems, and often the manifestation of these properties is much more sophisticated than that of artificial systems. There was even a special science of bionics developed, “spying” the secrets of harmony and perfection of living organisms in order to transfer the principles found into the technique. In the inanimate nature, there are obvious manifestations of systemic character: physical, chemical, geological, astronomical objects on all grounds should be attributed to the systems. Except but one: purposefulness.

The first way out is to draw an analogy between artificial systems and natural objects. This analogy identifies artificial and natural systems and makes us look for a goal-setting subject outside the universe itself. At the same time, we have to admit that the intellect of the Creator is incomparably superior to the human mind. This is the basis of the emergence of religions. The question naturally arises: is God himself a system? Different religions have different views on this issue. Some declare it to be meaningless as the human mind cannot know the complexity of the Creator that exceeds its capabilities; it is proposed to believe that He is His own cause and effect. There are, however, religions that do not consider this question heretical; they propose the hypothesis of the hierarchy of deities: there are gods for people, then there are gods for the gods of people, and so on to infinity.

However, it is possible to propose another hypothesis about the similarity, but not the identity of man-made and natural systems, which allows to solve the arisen difficulty without requiring a mental exit from the limits of the universe. For this, it is necessary to clarify and specify the concept of purpose.

What is the purpose? Let’s see how the concept of the purpose develops, deepens, and clarifies on the example of the concept of an artificial system close to us.

The history of any artificial system begins at some point 0 (Figure 2.12) when the existing state of the outputs Y (t = 0) = F0 turns out to be unsatisfactory, that is, there is a problem situation. The subject is unhappy with this condition and would like to change it. When asked what he would like (what is his purpose), he answers that he would be satisfied with the state of Y*. This is the starting point for defining the purpose. Further, it is discovered that F* does not exist now and also cannot be achieved for a number of reasons in the near future. The second step in defining the goal is to recognize its desired future state. Immediately it turns out that the future is unlimited. The third step in clarifying the concept of the goal is to estimate the time 7* when the desired state Y* can be achieved under given conditions. Now the ultimate purpose becomes two-dimensional, it is a point (Г* F*) on our chart.

The task now is to move from point (0, F„) to point (Г* F*). But it turns out that this path can be followed by different trajectories, each of which begins at (0, F0) and ends at (7* F*), and only one of them can be realized. There is a problem of comparison and choice of the best trajectory. Let the choice fall on the trajectory Y*(t).

This means that it is not only desirable for us to arrive at point (Г* Y*) but to arrive through a sequence of states on the curve Y*(t). Thus, it is necessary to include into the notion of purpose all the desired future states, as well as the final and intermediate ones. This is the fourth and the final step in defining the purpose: the purpose now means not only the final state (the end) (Г* Y*) but the entire trajectory Y*(t) (intermediate objectives, goals, aims, plans, auxiliary operations, etc.).

So, the purpose of the artificial system is all its desired future history, Y*(t).

The purposefulness of natural objects. Now let’s look at our chart from a different point of view. Looking at (T*, Y*) from position t = 0, we consider it a desirable future state. After time T*, this state becomes real and can be achieved by the present. Therefore, it is possible to define the final goal as the future real state. This is a decisive step toward the interpretation of purposefulness in nature: after all, any, including natural, object is sure to come in the future to some state. This, by definition, is the purpose. Importantly, we don’t need to hypothesize about someone setting a purpose in advance.

Now we have the opportunity to say that the property of purposefulness is present in natural systems equally as the artificial ones. This makes it possible to approach any system from a single point of view and with a single methodology.

To dispel the confusion that arises, we honestly and clearly recognize that “the goal as the image of the desired future” and “the goal as the real future” are not the same. Let us introduce different terms for them: the first will be called the subjective goal, and the second the objective goal.

This, first, clarifies the difference between artificial and natural systems: artificial systems are created to achieve subjective goals; natural systems, obeying the laws of nature, realize objective goals.

Second, it clarifies the reason that not every subjective goal is achievable. The fact is that not only the lack or misuse of available resources can be the cause of failure. The main condition for achieving a subjective goal is its belonging to the number of objective goals: only goals that can become a reality are feasible.

One of the reasons for the emergence of unattainable subjective goals is that subjective goals are the product of imagination, and objective ones are the result of the manifestation of the laws of nature. Restrictions on mental constructions are much weaker than those on possible real events. You can imagine a beautiful creature — a half-girl-half-fish — a mermaid, or no less handsome creature — half-man-half- horse — centaur, but nature does not allow their appearance.

It is important to establish the feasibility of a subjective goal before attempting to realize it. Unwillingness to waste efforts and resources would allow not to engage in the implementation of an unattainable goal. So far, we have only one criterion of unattainability — a contradiction to the laws of nature (e.g., the purpose of creating a perpetual motion machine). However, sometimes we cannot cite the laws of nature that impede the achievement of a goal (e.g., the goals of creating artificial intelligence; and although success in this is far from expectations, efforts do not seem to be in vain).

There is, however, one type of knowingly unattainable goals that are not considered unworthy of striving for them. Such goals are called ideals. The peculiar feature of the ideal is that although it is obviously unattainable, still it is attractive, and most importantly, allows it to be approached. For example, harmonically developed personality; the desire to go on increasing sports achievements; the knowledge of an increasing number of languages; in general, the pursuit of excellence in any respect.

Conclusion (systems picture of the world)

In this chapter, an attempt is made to represent the world as a world of systems interacting with each other, entering as parts into larger systems, containing smaller systems, each of which continuously changes and stimulates other systems to change.

From an infinite number of properties of systems allocated, 12 are inherent in all systems. They are allocated on the basis of their need and sufficiency for justification, construction, and accessible exposition of technology of the applied systems analysis.

However, it is very important to remember that each system is different from all others. This is manifested primarily in the fact that of each of the 12 system-wide properties, these properties are embodied in an individual form specific to each system. In addition to these system-wide patterns, each system has other specific inherent properties.

Applied systems analysis is aimed at solving a specific problem. This is reflected in the fact that using the system-wide methodology, it is technologically aimed at the detection and use of individual, often unique features of a problem situation.

To facilitate such w'ork, you can use some classifications of systems, fixing the fact that different systems should use different models, different techniques, and different theories. For example, R. Ackoff and D. Gharayedaghi [4] proposed to distinguish systems by the ratio of objective and subjective goals of the parts of the whole; technical systems, man-made machines, social, and environmental. Another useful classification, according to the degree of knowledge of the systems and the formalization of models, was proposed by W. Checkland [5]: “hard” and “soft” systems and, accordingly, “hard” and “soft” methodologies, as discussed in Chapter 1. M.C. Jackson [6] describes 10 variants of problem-solving technologies according to differences between problem situations, such as level of disagreement between its participants, and its position between hard and soft modeling.

Thus, it can be said that the systems vision of the world is to begin to consider a particular system, focusing on its individual characteristics and understanding its universal systems nature. Classics of systems analysis formulated this principle aphoristically:

“Think globally, act locally”.

Questions and Tasks

  • 1. What are the static properties of systems? List four static properties.
  • 2. How does the fact of universal interconnectedness in nature follow' from the openness of systems?
  • 3. What is the black box model called? What are the four kinds of mistakes you can make when building a black box model?
  • 4. What is a system composition model? What are the (three) difficulties of building it?
  • 5. Under what assumptions can we talk about the presence of parts of the system?
  • 6. How is the system boundary determined?
  • 7. What is a system structure model? What are the difficulties of its construction?
  • 8. What are the dynamic properties of systems? List them (all four).
  • 9. Explain the difference between the growth and development of the system.
  • 10. What do we call synthetic properties of systems? List four such properties.
  • 11. Which of the static properties of the system ensures the existence of emergent properties of the system?
  • 12. What is a subjective goal?
  • 13. What is meant by the objective purpose of the system?
  • 14. Why are none of the subjective goals achievable?
  • 15. Define the following concepts:
    • - system integrity;
    • - openness of the system;
    • - black box;
    • - error of the first (second, third, fourth) kind;
    • - system composition model;
    • - subsystem;
    • - system element;
    • - system structure model;
    • - system function;
    • - stimulation of systems;
    • - functioning;
    • - growth (decline);
    • - development (degradation);
    • - lifecycle;
    • - emergence;
    • - inherence;
    • - the subjective purpose;
    • - the objective purpose.
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