Thinking in Systems

4 from Thinking in Systems, A Primer

The first step in respecting language is keeping it as concrete, meaningful, and truthful as possible—part of the job of keeping information streams clear. The second step is to enlarge language to make it consistent with our enlarged understanding of systems.

Our culture, obsessed with numbers, has given us the idea that what we can measure is more important than what we can’t measure.

Be a quality detector. Be a walking, noisy Geiger counter that registers the presence or absence of quality.

If something is ugly, say so. If it is tacky, inappropriate, out of proportion, unsustainable, morally degrading, ecologically impoverishing, or humanly demeaning, don’t let it pass. Don’t be stopped by the “if you can’t define it and measure it, I don’t have to pay attention to it” ploy. No one can define or measure justice, democracy, security, freedom, truth, or love. No one can define or measure any value. But if no one speaks up for them, if systems aren’t designed to produce them, if we don’t speak about them and point toward their presence or absence, they will cease to exist.