2007/08/07 11:00 Panel Discussion: Fusion in Systems Sciences: East and West, Soft and Hard, ISSS Tokyo 2007

2007/08/07 11:00 Panel Discussion:  Fusion in Systems Sciences: East and West, Soft and Hard, ISSS Tokyo 2007

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Panel Discussion: Fusion in Systems Sciences: East and West, Soft and Hard

  • Chair: Tatsuyuki Negoro, Chief Director, Research Institute of Information Technology and Management, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan


  • Jifa Gu, Professor, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, P R China
  • Louis H. Kauffman, Professor, University of Illinois, Chicago, USA
  • David C. Lane, Reader, London School of Economics, London, UK
  • G.A. Swanson, Professor, Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville, TN, USA

[Tatsuyuki Negoro]

Tatasuyuki Negoro

Three questions:

  • Is it fruitful to distinguish hard from soft approaches in systems thinking?
  • How could we accommodate hard, soft and other trends in systems thinking
  • What are common features and critical differences between the western and eastern approaches?

David Lane:  Hard Headed but Soft Hearted

David Lane

I am a system dynamist

  • Systems dynamics and systems sciences aren't as close as they might be
  • Systems sciences has a web of influences

SD comes from server engineering mechanism

  • Peter Checkland has a map of the system science
  • System Dynamics comes from Jay Forrester

SD can add the theory

SD has a reputation as a hard approach, but

  • Importance of mental models
  • Crafting of desirable futures
  • Underlying social theory

Is SD a bluntly realists approach?  No, from the defining ideas

  • Feedback
  • Simulation
  • Mental models

SD models aren't a model of the reality, they're representations of mdental models

Structure influences behaviour

  • Thinking that hypothesized causal factors influence behaviour
  • This is not a prediction, but instead a deduced behaviour
  • It's like SSM:  Checkland describes models as logical machines
  • If the behaviour is unwelcome, then it's used to create new operating models
  • Behaviour influences structure
  • Hope to craft a more desireable theory

Is SD functionalist?  No

  • Burrell Morgan framework:  Checkland positioned SSM as interpretitive
  • Look more deeply in Burrell Morgan
  • Using Jackson, place some parts of SD is subjective, and some is objective
  • Rather than looking at objectivism and subjectivism, social systems are better as layers
  • Layder:  Degrees of depth ontology
  • Think of agency and structure as interacting (draw from Berger & Luckman, Social Construction of Reality)

SD can contribute a formal approach, perhaps to agent-based approaches

Can't say much about east-west

Can contribute towards the goal of service to humanity

Louis Kauffman, Points of View

Louis Kauffman


Mathematical models

  • Can be used to make correlations, and as a testing ground for concepts

Knot logic: linking as mutuality

  • Knot is a patterned integrity, information independent of the substrate that carries it

Self-mutuality and fundamental triplicity

  • Trefoil is a stable self-mutuality in three loops about itself

G.A. Swanson, The Domain of the Inquiry of Systems Science

G. A. Swanson
Concern from the founders of the ISSS that natural and biological sciences had advanced, that social scientists should work on general theories

  • Thus, ISSS was founded not as philosophical, but instead scientific
  • Under AAAS, it was put into the philosophy and history section

2x2 matrix:  Duality between inexact/exact and linguistic/mathematic

  • Endeavours tend to be around the exact, but then structure a new ambiguity around what we learn
  • Ambiguity is around the investment

Margaret Mead:  The language of humanities, domains of interest is linguistic

  • Humans invented language to discover the natural world and each other

In transitions between types of knowledge

Diagonal line:  that's where systems science is (i.e. linguistic-mathematic to mathematic-linguistic)

  • All things that we view in science can be viewed as systems, interacting

Looking at relationships forces us to higher levels of consciousness

At the intersection of the lines, there's an infinity of understanding

  • It's an epistemology, and from that comes not only philosophy but science

Gu JiFa:  Systems Methodologies from Hard to Soft, from West to East

Background in computing mathematics, moved to operations research

  • Then movements to systems engineering, systems dynamics
  • These are all hard systems methodologies

1980:  Found some problems in China where couldn't use the hard systems methodologies

  • Found Checkland useful

1994, moved to Hull University

  • Discussed with Zhu, things missing

1990, Sawaragi, Qian and Gu distinguished west and east

Diagram:  original systems thoughts in China AD1100; original western thoughts AD600

Some eastern approaches

Shinayakana Systems Approach

  • 1987
  • I3:  interactive, intelligent, interdisciplinary
  • H3

Metasynthetic system approach

  • Qian 1990
  • Open complex giant systems problems

Expert opinions .... have to deal with those

Gu & Zhu 1994, Wuli-Shili-Renli

  • Wuli: Objective world
  • Shili: Subjective world
  • Renli: Intersubjective world

Linstone comparison with TOP

  • Technical
  • Organizational
  • Personal

Yolles comparison

Spiral Propulsion Approach

i-system, Nakamori 2000

  • Extends i3 to i5:  pentagram system

Tatsuyuki Negoro: Panel

Definitions of hard and soft

Simple definition

Checkland definition

  • The world as system vs. the process of inquiry as systemic

David Lane:

  • The world is as it is, versus the world as a social construct
  • Comment from Forrester, SD models representing the reality of the world -- this is meaningless
  • Hard as meaning formal language is used, versus qualitative language, which can be dissolved:  conceptual models
  • Use hard/soft definitions, because I see other people using it

Louis Kauffman:

  • Using hard and soft in a multiplicity of meanings
  • Parts that resist and those that don't
  • Experience of facts, but language as soft

G.A. Swanson:

  • Should reject hard/soft, speak instead of complexity

Jifa Gu:

  • Social problems, deal with soft
  • Use of models, exact with mathematic; but if don't know then use language
  • Systemic versus systematic:  hard is better with systematic, soft is better with systemic

Louis Kauffman:

  • Hard always looking like the end result, soft often looks like playing before production
  • There's the domain of imagination that is neither soft no hard

David Lane:

  • Models as something that people can discuss
  • Similar in decision sciences
  • Model will run again and again, but won't come up with anything creative

Questions from the audience

Hard and soft are both view of the same thing:  engineers are more concerned with the hard part; people care; should integrate, holism.

Hard, 3 problems: flexible? precision or digitalization (yes/no)?  how much detail (at end)?  Can we live with the soft?

  • G.A. Swanson:  Good point, problem of chaotic systems when humans are the agents/actors.  Creativitiy directly in the system.
  • Don't like the hard/soft distinction, because always hardening and softening, or else will lose the system.

Hard and soft as positioning

Presenting things as objective:  near-Hegelianism, Fukuyama, The End of History?

Debate of hard and soft is useful, but do we believe that we can sort this out by talking?

  • Lou Kauffman:  talking is useful

Organizations have hard and soft processes, it's important to know which, e.g. airlines hard product, vs. schools soft.  Culture.

G.A. Swanson:  integrative aspects, culture east-west.

Close:  no conclusion, which is a positive statement