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.

Categories General Systems, Hope for the future


I came into General System Theory (or better perhaps System’s Theory in General) through advanced studies in Anthropology. That was now more than thirty years ago. Systems Theory has much to offer to us, even if many scientists tend to look at it all askance down their long noses. I don’t think I could have approached the complexities of anthropological or human-type systems theory in any other manner except through General System Models, of which there is a standard model proposed and developed by Ludwig von Bertalanffy (who was primarily a biologist), as well as many other basic, natural and applied models functioning at different levels, contexts and types of systems explanation. The real paradox today, in our “post-modern” and very global era, is that systems thinking and theory tends still to be eschewed by many informed professionals of the global knowledge community even when and if our contemporary civilization is and has always been constructed and operated by numerous and various kinds of systems. The paradox is even greater if we realize that just a semester or two of basic and advanced systems theory and method would be for most all that would be required to reconcile sciences and systems approaches and to form the foundation for building a healthy and respectable “science of general systems.”

In this regard I could not possibly underestimate the importance of a systems-based worldview, not in replacement of general scientific worldview, but complementary to and in support of scientific perspectives. The main reason I make this argument is the observation that the human pursuit of development has always been systems-based development, but mostly people have made discoveries and inventions and extended streamlining applications and innovations, not because of systems direct insight or intelligence, but often serendipitously in spite of systems awareness and understanding or not. It has been our myopic and short-sighted pursuit of systems largely on an ad hoc basis that now will lead us down a blind alley toward global climax and an unlimited plethora of possible post-climax global scenarios.

I began my blogging at a time when I thought what we needed most in the world was a system of systems, that if well organized and used in a scientifically informed manner, could provide much of the context and insight we need to generate long-term and sustainable solutions in an inherently super-complex world. I thought to myself what better system framework than the Internet to create a foundation for global integration and organization and mobilization of humankind above and beyond the ethno-linguistic and ethno-national horizons within which most people still dwell. Needless to comment, I never got past the first level of producing a few dozen manuscripts about general systems, and ultimately, in desperation of existential failure, abandoning and giving up almost everything I had been working on and for.

That was twenty years ago and both the world and I have moved on since then. Today, with global climate change and global circumscription of living systems and natural resource reservoirs, we perhaps need a bona fide systems framework more desperately than ever before, and I am still writing upon and even now on the verge of publishing on general systems thinking and theory. Our primary strategic national adversaries, the Chinese, appear to culturally take more to systems and systems type thinking than their American or perhaps European counterparts, who are more culturally oriented to causal models of direct linear actions and reactions. But in truth there is not an area of broader science today in the contemporary global era that does not adopt and depend upon many systems models and perspectives even in their analytical methodologies and applied procedures, even if discussion of the systems-based aspects of much of this work may seem implicitly somewhat verboten if not downright taboo as a professional career killer.

I have died many cowardly social deaths and have been resurrected from a professional death more than once, and I am still around and going strong even in my senior years. I can call myself an anthropologist with some serious intent behind that title, even if most others at best use it tongue in cheek when either addressing or ignoring me. My work is my own, I do not depend upon graduate students for my ego or for my professional development, and I have carried a human systems framework effectively into important applied areas. We all face a central challenge in the contemporary and future world. Earth remains our’s, humankind’s, to steward, protect and preserve (or, failing, not), and general systems theory and its consistent, broad-based, informed scientific application is the best way of accomplishing that through human civilization. Of all things possible between heaven and earth, this truth I do not doubt one dot or iota.