Richard Jung: “Surfaces Of Systems”

The work of R. Jung, especially the paper quoted below, shows the key turn we should take to re-define systems theory. This would be positive for Science in general, and certainly for all specialties dealing with social and technical systems.

The conventional view criticised by Jung –one centred around mechanical metaphors—must be overcome. The key aspect here is the re-definition of “system” on the basis of the notions of boundary and surface . Jung writes:

“A general conception of a system with mechanical links between parts (based on a metaphor of the steam engine), or of an empty black box with formal input-output relations, is replaced by a conception of a system distinguished from its environment by a boundary. The boundary of the system is formally a set of points that are neither inside nor outside a system. It does not need to be only thought of as a physical membrane; it may as well be regarded as a region where the validity of certain concepts changes, or where there occurs a major change in the probability of certain kinds of events. We may also conceive it as the surface of a system. 

“Surfaces of systems undergo deformations as the result of external and internal loads and of their own internal dynamics. An interpretation of the processes comprising the variations of the surface of the system (including the oscillation around its optimal form or the rupture of the surface) as physical (mechanical, chemical or physiological) is the experience of the system viewed objectively. An interpretation of the same events as semantic changes in the uncertainty, tension or  risk experienced by the system in its environment is the experience of the system viewed subjectively.” (Page 3)

(Source: Richard Jung, “Postmodern Systems Theory,” 2005 – )