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Systems Theory

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Systems theory studies the nature of complex systems in nature, society, and science. It is a framework by which one can analyze and describe any set of components and their interactions which produce some result only by working together. This could be an organ, an organism, an organization or society, an electro-mechanical device or information system. Systems theory first originated in biology in the 1920s out of the need to explain the interrelatedness of organisms in ecosystems.

The new systems view of organized complexity went "one step beyond the Newtonian view of organized simplicity" in reducing the parts from the whole, or in understanding the whole without relation to the parts. The relationship between organizations and their environments became recognized as the foremost source of complexity and interdependence. In most cases the whole has properties that cannot be known from analysis of the constituent elements in isolation. This gave rise to the concept of emergent systems where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Similar ideas are found in learning theories that developed from the same fundamental concepts, emphasizing that understanding results from knowing concepts both in part and as a whole.

The systems view was based on several fundamental ideas. First, all phenomena can be viewed as a web of relationships among elements, or a system. Second, all systems, whether electrical, biological, or social, have common patterns, behaviors, and properties that can be understood and used to develop greater insight into the behavior of complex phenomena and to move closer toward a unity of science.