Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella H. Meadows Download (read online) free eBook .pdf.epub.kindle

Thinking in Systems: A Primer

Meadows’ Thinking in Systems, is a concise and crucial book offering insight for problem solving on scales ranging from the personal to the global. Edited by the Sustainability Institute’s Diana Wright, this essential primer brings systems thinking out of the realm of computers and equations and into the tangible world, showing readers how to develop the systems-thinking s
Kent

Oct 17, 2014

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it was amazing

Recommended to Kent by:
Mark Tattersall
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Ever read a book that you’re sad to finish because you borrowed it from the library, rather than bought it? Also, you were sad you couldn’t write notes in the margins or highlight passages? Yeah, that’s this right here.

This is essential reading for anyone, and I say that without hyperbole. You should do it especially if you’re in business, technology, or policy (god, especially policy) but also just generally if you live on this planet and care about a thing. I think perhaps it puts a lot of pe

This is essential reading for anyone, and I say that without hyperbole. You should do it especially if you’re in business, technology, or policy (god, especially policy) but also just generally if you live on this planet and care about a thing. I think perhaps it puts a lot of people off because of two things:
One, the perceived dryness of the title/topic, but there’s no worry here, as Meadows conveys complex ideas simply and engagingly.
Two, the sustainability emphasis that runs through it. However, even though it takes an environmentalist stance, you can completely discard that to embrace the bigger picture of the book – which is, well, to embrace the bigger picture.

As I read this I was floored by the constant application to my life. Pretty remarkable considering the bulk of the writing was done around 2001 and it wasn’t published until 2008. The passage about how we tend to focus on the play of a system but not the space it has to play in made me think about the infrastructure challenges we have at work. The bit about the volatility that can result from removing delays from a system is powerfully and scarily echoed in the story of the 2010 flash crash (well-told in the Radiolab episode “Speed”). And the whole thing about a system constantly reinforcing itself even if you change the players within it is the plot of The Wire.

While it can be daunting to think about challenges in this way, it’s really the only way to do it if we want to solve those challenges.

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Jonathan Yu

Feb 19, 2012

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really liked it

The world is unspeakably complex and unfortunately our inferior lizard-evolved brains are nowhere near capable of comprehending this. The world is complex and that is why our Hollywood movies have sucky plots, our politicians say idiotic things that idiotic people believe, and the word “accurate economist” is an oxymoron.

So here is the progression/evolution of a man who learns about the complexity of the world. He starts by watching Hollywood movies and Fox News and thinks that the world is bla

So here is the progression/evolution of a man who learns about the complexity of the world. He starts by watching Hollywood movies and Fox News and thinks that the world is black and white. There are good guys and there are bad guys. Good guys beat the bad guys. We win. Then, you go out in the real world and find out that things aren’t that easy to pigeonhole. There are bad guys who do good things. There are good guys who do bad things. Good guys promise to do things for everyone but never do them, or even make things worse. The man lays out simple plans in his head and tries to execute on them in the real world but they inevitably fail. “Why don’t things work out for me?” he thinks. And through years of failure, he comes to learn that the good guys are sometimes the bad guys and the bad guys are sometimes the good guys too. The rules that we believe to be real – “Good guys win” and “Working hard always leads to results” – are not so, and our efforts turn out so often to be naught because of the mysterious working processes of some Wizard of Oz behind the curtain screen. But the hard truth is that though the working processes are indeed mysterious, there is no single person to bash or blame. There are only the actions of everyone around us.

It could take years to learn this way of the world, but if you read this book you will learn this in hours. This book is not an engineering book and it is unfortunate that Donella gave it such a bland engineering-oriented name. This is a book of philosophy and life learnings. A book about complexity, written with Zen-style simplicity and brevity yet every word is packed with meaning. You read this book not because you want to learn about “systems” (who cares about that?!) but you want to learn about why things don’t always work out the way you want them to.
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