pilic.work

Dancing With Systems is an essay listing a dozen+ ways of thinking about, working with and enhancing systems. The author is Donella Meadows, one of the authors of environmental classic, The Limits To Growth.
From the list, e.g. “#7. Make feedback policies for feedback systems.
President Jimmy Carter had an unusual ability to think in feedback terms and to make feedback policies. Unfortunately he had a hard time explaining them to a press and public that didn’t understand feedback.

He suggested, at a time when oil imports were soaring, that there be a tax on gasoline proportional to the fraction of U.S. oil consumption that had to be imported. If imports continued to rise the tax would rise, until it suppressed demand and brought forth substitutes and reduced imports. If imports fell to zero, the tax would fall to zero.

The tax never got passed.”

“5. Honor and protect information.
A decision maker can’t respond to information he or she doesn’t have, can’t respond accurately to information that is inaccurate, can’t respond in a timely way to information that is late. I would guess that 99 percent of what goes wrong in systems goes wrong because of faulty or missing information.

If I could, I would add an Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not distort, delay, or sequester information. You can drive a system crazy by muddying its information streams. You can make a system work better with surprising ease if you can give it more timely, more accurate, more complete information.

For example, in 1986 new federal legislation required U.S. companies to report all chemical emissions from each of their plants. Through the Freedom of Information Act (from a systems point of view one of the most important laws in the nation), that information became a matter of public record. In July 1988 the first data on chemical emissions became available. The reported emissions were not illegal, but they didn’t look very good when they were published in local papers by enterprising reporters, who had a tendency to make lists of “the top ten local polluters.” That’s all that happened. There were no lawsuits, no required reductions, no fines, no penalties. But within two years chemical emissions nationwide (at least as reported, and presumably also in fact) had decreased by 40 percent. “