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UCD-STAFFORDBEER  March 2011

UCD-STAFFORDBEER March 2011

Subject:

Re: a thing is what it does (SB) - Japan

From:

allenna leonard <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Forum dedicated to the work of Stafford Beer <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 15 Mar 2011 08:31:24 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (113 lines)

That is my understanding also.  The purpose of a system i
Dear Javier,

That is my understanding also.  The purpose of a system is ALL it does.  So if 
the outcomes are not good (a hospital killing people) you start looking.  Are 
their practices sloppy? Is there a serial killer on the staff?  Are they using 
hospital beds for palliative care?  One of my favorite examples was the school 
turning out 50% of the students as functionally illiterate.  That is more a case 
of ignoring initial conditions and 'not doing'; i.e. not investigating the 
barriers to learning and doing something about them.

In the case of the unfolding nuclear situation in Japan, you are back to 
political decisions taken decades ago to take the risk of building nuclear power 
plants in an earthquake/tsunami zone in order to reduce Japan's importation of 
fossil fuels and their pollution problems. 

Allenna


----- Original Message ----
From: Javier Livas <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Tue, March 15, 2011 8:52:40 AM
Subject: Re: a thing is what it does (SB) - Japan

Roger:

The phrase that I heard Stafford say was quite different:

"The purpose of a (highly complex) system is what it does." 

The thinking behind this is that given the complexity it is of no use trying to 
understand what the SYSTEM was meant to do or was intended to produce. You may 
be WANTING to get electrical power out of a nuclear plant but then, given the 
tremor and the sunami you get a huge source of world-wide anguish. [I think that 
the Japanese have acted with great responsibility when they decided used salt 
water to cool the reacto. This was a decision to trash the reactor (at least one 
of those in trouble) despite the great cost.]

A highly complex system, such as a nuclear facility is intertwined with many 
other systems and its downfall affects all of them in unsuspected ways. The 
Beerian phrase is meant to educate about these unexpected effects. It is not 
really to be taken that literal. Is the purpose of a hospital to turn out dead 
people? Literally speaking that is what happens, but it is hard to recognize 
that as a purpose. But is does help to think in those terms —if you want to 
become aware that doctors cause a lot of health problems or that hospital house 
the deadliest bacterias.

Javier Livas




On Mar 15, 2011, at 3:59 AM, Roger Harnden wrote:

> I have always felt this to be slightly problematical. I argued with Stafford 
>about the wording, but he was adament.
> 
> The problem arises if we turn to a real-world situation, such as North Eastern 
>Japan, today. I take it that the implication of this phrase might be - nuclear 
>power supply in Japan is a system to inculcate panic, de-stabilise the markets, 
>and perhaps, injure many people. Which, indeed, might be one of the arguments 
>against nuclear power from the anti-nuclear lobby.
> 
> So should the wording be: 'a thing is what it ought to be'......or 'a thing is 
>what it is observed to be'. Or, indeed, that viability is in the eye of the 
>beholder?
> 
> Or should it be - 'when it works as it ought to work, a system is what it 
>does'.......But that leads us into infinite regress?
> 
> I'd be interested in anyone's thoughts on this phrase.
> 
> Roger
> 
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> For more information go to: www.metaphorum.org
> 
> For the Metaphorum Collaborative Working Environment (MCWE) go to:  
>www.platformforchange.org
> 
> METAPHORUM eList Archive available at - 
>https://listserv.heanet.ie/ucd-staffordbeer.html
> 
> Archive of CYBCOM eList available at - 
>http://hermes.circ.gwu.edu/archives/cybcom.html
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
For more information go to: www.metaphorum.org

For the Metaphorum Collaborative Working Environment (MCWE) go to:  
www.platformforchange.org

METAPHORUM eList Archive available at - 
https://listserv.heanet.ie/ucd-staffordbeer.html

Archive of CYBCOM eList available at - 
http://hermes.circ.gwu.edu/archives/cybcom.html
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
For more information go to: www.metaphorum.org

For the Metaphorum Collaborative Working Environment (MCWE) go to:  www.platformforchange.org

METAPHORUM eList Archive available at - https://listserv.heanet.ie/ucd-staffordbeer.html

Archive of CYBCOM eList available at - http://hermes.circ.gwu.edu/archives/cybcom.html
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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