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No. 37 – Rules for Social Systems

August 17, 2011

In my last post we looked at the first two rules: l) members of a system share common characteristics and 2) whatever makes up one level cannot be from a higher level. Four more rules follow.

3. Every Member of a System Will Have a Reciprocal or Opposite Member

This is the classic electron/proton, acid/base relationship which also applies to social systems, especially those involving technology and social risk. All technologies generate health risk which are inequitable in the distribution of risks and benefits. There will always be those who perceive “right and wrong, good and evil, and fair and unfair” in every risk that is justified on a higher social level, such as the community or nation where all technology is justified. Therefore, it is not likely that any health risk will gain 100% acceptance by a population.

4. Every System is Homeostatic

Every system has resistance to change. More simply, every system seeks to maintain its identity.

5. Law of Requisite Variety – Every Member of a System is Different

If a system is divided by the number of members, the result does not represent an average member. The health risk to a city cannot be divided by the number of inhabitants to find the individual health risk. Likewise the risk to a city cannot be understood in terms of the risk to one person multiplied by the population.

6. Change within a System Always Involves the Next Higher Level in the System

Deadlocks on health risk issues are not normally resolved by the opposing parties, but by shifting the focus to a higher level in the system that sets new rules and changes the system to resolve the issues. For example, regulations for health and safety are set by a higher social system (the Federal government) to resolve issues between technology and individuals.

To begin applying these six rules, let’s return to the family social system in Insight No. 36. A family social system begins with an individual (self) and progresses to higher levels of increasingly larger groups of individuals (selfs). Our role in this system depends on which level we represent. As an individual, I am an expert on my thoughts, feelings, experiences, perceptions, and realities. When I speak for my family, I am speaking for a larger group, but still at a personal level. When I speak for a nation, I am now a large group spokesperson, representing many compromises and diversities of interest.

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