Systems are good to think, as I believe not only is our world organized upon the basis of systems, but our brains and minds, as part of our bodies and lives, and as part of general systems of the larger world, are also organized systemically, however complicated and complex it may really be. In other words, systems invite themselves to be representationally modeled in terms of symbolic knowledge constructs that pretend to embody and express the core design and components of any such system.
We really only consciously realize systems in nature, including our own human and often quite unnatural (artificial) systems (as well as myriad imaginary, fantasy or make-believe systems), through our awareness and interaction with them as such, as knowledge systems that have a relatively homologous structure with consistency with objectively real or subjectively constructed or imaginary systems. And all this speaks to the primary importance of the fundamental concept of the anthropological relativity of human reality through which all our perception, awareness and experience is filtered as the source of our intelligence. In other words, we cannot but help view and understand our world, including ourselves in that world, except through the conceptual and cognitive constructs of our symbolic representational knowledge of the world.
Granted, this knowledge is selectively filtered and shaped by many different processes. Hence human awareness, information, knowledge and understanding are constrained in basic and fundamental and therefore universal ways. All human knowledge is symbolically representational, even at the level of fundamental percepts as we construct our world through our basic senses. Symbolic knowledge in the human species is specially structured by human language—human language has a basic symbolic structure that we cannot undue or ever hope on a fundamental level to break out of. (Lord knows, many people try to escape their own knowledge constraints on a daily basis even, primarily through drugs, and if not by pharmacological means, then by fantasy, day dreams and wish fulfillment.)
So human intelligence is fundamentally symbolic linguistic, and there are scientific means of looking at, analyzing and sorting these things out. In a previous pre/post dissertation life, I was engaged more or less very directly with this kind of work. Our intelligence grants us great mental strengths to imagine new realities, to learn new things, to explore and discover, and to create entirely new worlds and even new working systems. We were creating new systems well before the development of writing systems. From then forward progress to civilizational systems involving and founded upon basic technologies and alternative human-made systems based on scientific understanding was only a matter of time and historical happenstance. In a very real sense, bronze beat out copper, and iron beat out bronze, and steel beat out iron (and now synthetic plastics and carbon fibers often beat out steel).
But the evolutionary purchase upon our great symbolic powers of human knowledge came at a very steep price. It has been a cost so great that often it has almost undone our world, if not ourselves completely in the world. For as powerful as it has proven historically to become, with the benefits and drawbacks of human civilization now on a global scale, our symbolic intelligence was never unlimited and always constrained by its own inherent, intrinsic structure. We can invent time, build clocks to accurately, precisely tell time, but we cannot control, stop or change time.
This has translated into a basic tendency—a weakness in both belief and behavior, and that is the fundamental anthropological fallacy of confusing the term for the thing that the term names. This leads systematically for mistaking the abstract idea of the name, symbolically invested with all kinds of meaning and memory associations, with the actual concrete reality of the thing being named or symbolically represented. If we can mistake the one thing for the idea or ideal of the thing thus designated, we can also mistake the idea for the thing it represents. This results in a kind of behavioral displacement that in large massive crowds, especially, can lead to very destructive consequences.
We are left then on the horns of a profound developmental-evolutionary and historical dilemma. The very human intelligence that empowers us creatively and constructively to build our civilization and make a better world, is the same intelligence that under constraints leads to equal powers of destructive aggression to tear down the world and human civilization back to total chaos. How this may occur is time and space for another blog. That it occurs and has happened and this design flaw, inevitable with symbolic intelligence, has characterized humankind as much or more than the more desirable and pollyanna qualities, and that it is fundamentally linked to the structural design of our own intelligence, must be the main punch-line to leave off with.
There are popular demagogues today who have figured some of this out on their own, and who are deliberately applying these lessons to their own aggrandizement even if at the expense of all of human civilization. In short, human beings, especially in large crowds, can become easily deluded into believing things to be true, and persuaded to act out upon these false beliefs, even when evidence is dubious and contradictory and the truth otherwise self-evident. This is perhaps the single greatest threat standing in the way of global human development in our contemporary world.