I Constantly Talk About Social Systems

You’ll probably notice that I talk a lot about a possibly nonexistent field called Social Systems Theory. There is a truly terrible wikipedia page on it that hasn’t been updated since 2009. Yet, I am positive it is a thing.

“Social systemics” learns from topics like cognition, complexity theory, economics, anthropology/sociology, psychology, and the structure & dissemination of information. It takes inputs from things like data feeds (data science), intelligence analysis, and neurological / cognition studies. It studies the dynamics of crowds, organizations, social networks, etc. It studies incentive structures, reputation systems and feedback loops. See also: cybernetics (which is not about robots or fake religions, as one might think).

The outputs of social systems study, should be something that real humans can use to impact real human well-being. This isn’t about the clever algorithms, although they are useful and cool. It’s about the social applications, built on a backbone of real data and scientific process. I’m curious to see where this part goes.

Picture Niccolo Machiavelli with a PhD and a pocket protector. That’s what we’re talking about.

Dr. Machiavelli, Berkeley CS Department, 2008

Go Go Gadget Moral Ambiguity

As with Machiavelli, the one thing about social systems analysis is that it might be evil. I’ve been thinking about that for a while, and it’s definitely a risk. The point of tweaking social systems is to make people do stuff without thinking about it. We like free will around here. Mostly, anyways. It does have its down sides.

But, one way or another, we’re all already using systems constraints and incentives on each other all the time. That’s what schools, games, companies and governments *are*. Smart people design social systems to guide our behavior and belief systems. Once in a while, those smart people are narcissistic assholes who do not have our best interests at heart. So, the way I see it. we might as well learn how it works.


About K2

I'm a social systems / data geek. I'm fascinated by big, gnarly problems. Also, I hold the scandalous and controversial opinion that public discourse works better when both sides actually talk to each other.
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2 Responses to I Constantly Talk About Social Systems

  1. Pingback: All Known Health Frauds are, in Fact, Valid | But Seriously

  2. Pingback: The Politics of Pendulums | But Seriously

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