General Systems Theory

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Ludwig von Bertalanffy was one of the most important theoretical biologists of the first half of this century. His research consisted of comparative physiology, biophysics, cancer, psychology and the philosophy of science. Von Bertalanffy thought of the idea of General System Theory back in 1936, but hesitated until 1948 when the intellectual climate was more receptive. At the University of Chicago (1937-38) he worked with the Russian physicist Nicolaus Rashevsky. There he gave his first lecture about the General System Theory as a methodology that is valid for all sciences.

Systems thinking dates back to antiquity (Mayans, Egyptians, Greeks) Von Bertalanffy began to develop common systems teachings in lectures during the 30’s, began to publish literature in 1946. In 1968 released the book “General Systems Theory: Foundations, Development, and Applications. He needed a theory to guide research in several disciplines due to striking parallels he observed between them; which rooted in theoretical biology, with an emphasis on the meaning of life. The differences between organisms and purely physico- chemical processes.

Started with a general model of an “open system” to describe the contradictions between the thermodynamics of living organisms and the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Researchers begin to examine complex systems using mathematics. Scientists and theorists in numerous fields begin applying their research to G. S. T. principles; now known as the International. Society for the Systems Sciences. Systems research is applied to all scientific, social, economic, and philosophical fields.

A system is a set of things that relate to one another and form a whole. Any system has four parts: objects, attributes, internal relationships and an environment. Objects are the parts, of a system. This can either be physical or abstract depending on the type system it is. Attributes are the qualities of the system and its objects. Internal Relationships is the way the objects in the system work together to perform a certain task. Environment are the areas surrounding the system which plays a role in how the system functions.

There are also seven characteristics that each systems possess. Starting with Wholeness, which is a system that is whole because its parts relate to one another and cannot be understood alone. A system also interdependent because each action in the system; determines the action of the next part of the system. Hierarchy in each system lays another system inside it. The larger system is called a suprasystem and the smaller system is called a subsystem. The author Arthur Koestler called the system of hierarchy the Janus effect. The members of a hierarchy, like the Roman god Janus, all have two faces looking in opposite directions: the face turned toward the subordinate levels is that of a self contained whole; the face turned upward toward the apex, that of a dependent part. One is the face of the master, the other the face of the servant. ” Self Regulation and Control in every system has its own goal to achieve, and must go through self regulation and control within the system to achieve those goals. Interchange with the Environment in all systems interact with their environments and must change according to the environment they are in.

Balance in each system requires balance to maintain itself. A system can stay off balance but only for a limited amount of time before it collapses. Change and Adaptability is crucial system because a system needs to maintain balance, but it must also be ready for the change. Some applications to other disciplines are: biological sciences, education, engineering, management, psychology, sociology, and software engineering. In interpersonal communication, the system consists of the people who are communicating.

This can be two or more individuals and these individuals are the objects. Each of these people are objects and have their own attributes, such as personality, level of education and language skills. The interactions that people have with other people in the system is what constitutes their internal relationships. People participating in conversations are in an environment that includes their physical environment and internal environment, such ambient sounds, emotional state, etc. All of these factors combined forms the general system of interpersonal communication.

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