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The Five Systems

StaffordBeer's studies led him to view the human form as five interacting systems.

  • SYSTEM 1: All the muscles and organs. The parts that actually DO something. The basic activities of the system. The Operation.
  • SYSTEM 2: The sympathetic nervous system which monitors the muscles and organs and ensures that their interaction are kept stable.
  • SYSTEM 3: The Base Brain which oversees the entire complex of muscles and organs and optimises the internal environment.
  • SYSTEM 4: The Mid Brain. The connection to the outside world through the senses. Future planning. Projections. Forecasting.
  • SYSTEM 5: Higher brain functions. Formulation of Policy decisions. Identity.

The Five Systems - Creating a Whole from the Parts.

The argument goes like this:

First of all you need the working bits. This is System 1 (S1) which has previously been called the Operation. S1 is the bit which actually does something. It's the muscles, the engine room, the machines, the producers.

Secondly you must ensure that there are ways of dealing with conflicting interests which are inevitable in the interactions which occur as the parts of S1 interact. Conflict resolution is the job of System 2. System 2 is also given the job of ensuring stability.

Once the interactions of the System 1 units are rendered stable, it becomes essential to look at ways of optimising these interactions. This is the job of System 3. System 3 works with an overview of the entire complex of interacting System 1 units and thinks "If this one does this and that one does that, then the whole thing will work more effectively." The extra efficiency is called synergy. System 3 is there to regulate System 1 - its function is optimisation.

Once you have a stable, optimised set of Operational units, then you must ensure that it can survive in a changing environment. This is the job of System 4. System 4 looks at the outside world, considers what it sees, looks for threats and opportunities, and schemes. S4 is there to produce plans to ensure long term viability.

And finally, the whole thing must function within some sort of overall context. Everyone must be pulling in the same direction. This is System 5's job. It provides the ground rules and the means of enforcing them to ensure that the system in complete. System 5 provides the ultimate authority.

The five systems develop into an extraordinarily powerful model of the way things work.

See also SystemsTheory, OnScars, HundertwassersFiveSkins


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