The Development of the Model of the Universe: A Paradigm Shift

Until recently, the desire to successfully manage not only technical but also social systems, in which people are essential elements, was to ensure and satisfy Ashby’s law, that is, the controlled system was simple and acted like a machine, so that people in it behaved like parts of a machine and performed only those functions that are necessary for the operation of the entire machine. The division of labor, the mechanization of production processes, the commission of people to perform those elementary operations that (so far) are not amenable to automation, in fact, completely dehumanized the work of people on conveyor lines, continuous productions, in factories and plants, and in rigid hierarchical organizations. The entire educational system that has developed over the past centuries has been subordinated to the goal of training personnel for work in analytically separated areas of labor specializations. In other words, the organization of society was based on the mechanistic paradigm, on analytical thinking, on the preference of only causal relationships between any entities that interest us, and on the organization of social structures by simplifying the system’s hierarchical relations of subordination between its elements.

Although historical epochs do not begin and end with specific dates, but replace each other gradually, the dominance of the mechanistic paradigm is associated with a specific period. Russell Ackoff believed that the Machine Age began during the Renaissance and ended during World War II. The peculiarity of the Machine Age is that in the management of social systems, the treatment of people was based on the fact that they, like the details in the mechanism or internal organs of a living individual, should perform only the functions assigned to them and should not manifest their own goals. Two circumstances have so far ensured the success of these models (mechanistic and organismic) of society.

First, the achievements of an analytical, cause-and-effect approach to the study and modeling of any manifestations of reality were impressive: the division of the complex into smaller and yet smaller parts made it possible to explain how this complex is arranged and how it operates (see Section 3.2 in Part II). Almost all our areas of knowledge are organized analytically: the analysis is carried out to find the elements that constitute all the objects in this area. In physics, these are elementary particles; in chemistry, atoms and molecules; in biology, cells; in music, notes; in linguistics, the analysis is brought either to individual words, or to symbols of written speech, or to phonemes in oral speaking; in management, analysis generates hierarchical executive structures; etc.

Second, during the Machine Age, people were forced to accept the fact that employers (heads of enterprises and organizations) did not take into account the personal interests and goals of employees: it was difficult to find a job, and only on conditions dictated by the employer. The qualifications for performing simple operations were of a low level, and managers gave instructions to all their subordinates regarding how to perform these operations.

Over time, the situation began to change. It became increasingly clear that nature is much more complicated than any of its models, that universal interconnectedness in nature makes abstraction an idea of the causal connection of only two entities, and, most importantly, that only an analytical approach cannot provide comprehensive explanations of reality (especially, human nature).

On the other hand, the development and sophistication of technologies required an ever-increasing skill of the workers, and as a result, workers began to understand their affairs more and better than their superiors. Consequently, the old methods of managing organizations began to lose their effectiveness. It has become increasingly necessary to take into account that the management of the social system must be based not only on the objectives of the system itself but must also take into account the interests of large (social and environmental) systems, of which our system is only a part, and in addition (and obligatorily!) take into account the personal characteristics and interests of each employee.

Under these conditions, it became necessary to increase the controllability of social systems, approaching the Ashby law of maximum controllability, not only by simplifying (reducing the diversity) the controlled system but primarily by increasing the complexity and development (increasing diversity) of the controlling system. The mechanistic paradigm began to be supplanted by the systems paradigm: The Age of Systems is coming.

A new world view is a new culture, dictating the promotion of other goals, and the creation of other ways of behavior in general and management in particular. Global changes are associated with the development of our understanding of the truly incomprehensible complexity of reality, and with the transition to taking into account the individual characteristics and interests of each subject.

If the term “analysis” is used in the sense of “ascertaining how the system is composed and how its parts interact”, and the term “synthesis” in the sense of “ascertaining how the system interacts with other systems from the environment”, then the new systemic paradigm differs from the old “analytical” one, complemented by its sharp increase in attention to the synthetic consideration of the system itself and all its parts (considered not as elements but also as systems).

Such a paradigm was formed due to the efforts of many system thinkers and practitioners of the 20th century, among which the most notable are R. Ackoff, L. Bertalanffy, A. Bogdanov, T. de Chardin, E. Deming, P. Drucker, J. Forrester, D. Meadows, N. Moiseev, D. Pospelov, I. Prigogine, P. Senge, V. Vernadsky, and N. Wiener.

The main feature of the new paradigm is a significant step toward improving the adequacy of our models of reality: now, to achieve our goals, it becomes fundamentally important not to be limited only to information about the internal structure of the system, which we intend to transfer into the desired state, but above all to take into account the possible consequences of our planned changes in the surrounding system environment. This does not mean abandoning the analytical description of the situation, but supplementing it with a synthetic consideration (see Section 3.2 in Part I).

There is another important point in the ongoing development of the new paradigm. Building the adequacy of our models cannot be limited only to taking into account more and more information about the world around us. The need was realized to include in our working models the reality and information about the nature of the person himself, who creates the models.

We now know that the function of modeling our brain is not limited to analysis and synthesis, which are the results of the work of our consciousness on the logical transformations of the available information. It turns out that very many and very important forms of modeling, ensuring the vital activity of a person, occur at the subconscious levels of the brain.

The study of subtle characteristics of human behavior (psychology, sociology) and the functioning of the human brain itself (anatomy and physiology of the brain) revealed the existence of special and diverse processes of subconscious (implicit, latent, nonverbal) information processing in the brain, generating amazing, sometimes even seeming to us supernatural, models: those that, although to varying degrees, are manifested by everyone (instincts, emotions, intuition, creativity, dreams, insight), and those that do not manifest in everyone and not always (hypnotizes, geniuses, prophets, clairvoyants, psychics, telepaths), and those that are considered unhealthful deviations from the norm (pathological mental diseases).

Some results of the study of these nonconscious information processes are used in the practice of social systems governance. For example, hypnosis is used for medical (and sometimes political) purposes; modern pedagogy sets the task of early identification of innate abilities and talents in children for their subsequent conscious maximum disclosure. In modern management theory, the problem of consciously involving the irrational intuition of managers in their rational management decisions is intensively developed (this becomes critical when there is a shortage of necessary information and time for finding a rational solution; and such situations are not uncommon in management practice).

The system picture of the world, which is the basis of the mentality of mankind, develops not only in the form of a change in the most common paradigms, as mentioned above. The development of systemology is also occurring, extracting from the real world all the new experimental information about it (data mining) and transforming this “raw” data into the new elements of our system models (modeling technology, data processing, knowledge management). Consequently, our understanding of the nature of systems expands and deepens, which allows us to plan more successful changes to our environment to realize our goals.

Different goals require different information about the system and its environment in various combinations of information about their different properties — static, dynamic, synthetic (see Chapter 2 in Part I). The development of the models of the corresponding groups of system properties has reached a level where it is possible to speak about the formation of specific sections of systemology — systems statics, systems dynamics, and complexity theory. Let us briefly describe the current state of these sections.

Questions and Tasks

  • 1. Which features of the real world do we reflect in terms of matter, space, time, and system?
  • 2. Try to show that modeling is not a function that a person can do or not do, and that he cannot do anything at all without modeling.
  • 3. Formulate the main differences between the mechanistic and systemic paradigms (in the vision of effective relationships between people in the process of their life in the environment).
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