magic starSummarize by Aili

Systems: The Purpose of a System is What It Does - Anil Dash

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses the fundamental insight that the purpose of a system is what it does, regardless of whether the outcomes are perceived as good or bad. It explores how this concept can be used to understand and drive change in various systems and institutions.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] When trying to understand systems

1. What is the key insight the author shares about understanding systems?

  • The key insight is that the machine is never broken - the outputs or impacts of a system are precisely what it was designed to do, whether we find those results to be good, bad or mixed.
  • The author explains that this is known as the "purpose of a system is what it does" (POSIWID) principle, which comes from the field of cybernetics.

2. Why is this concept important to understand?

  • Understanding that the purpose of a system is what it does can be a "horrible but hopefully galvanizing knowledge" that forces us to confront the reality of how systems are actually functioning, rather than how we wish they would function.
  • This understanding can help us be more effective in driving change, as it requires us to focus on changing the system itself rather than just trying to fix individual issues.

[02] Changing the system

1. What does the author suggest is required to change a system?

  • If we don't like what a system is doing, the author states that we have to change the system itself. This means making "everyone involved, especially those in authority, feel urgency about changing the real-world impacts that a system has."
  • The author suggests that "mindless optimism" about improving a system is not effective, as it leads to doubling down on broken institutions. Instead, we need to focus on the actual, real-world impacts of the system.

2. What are the two potential paths for changing a system, according to the author?

    1. Find a way to gain the power to change the system so that it "wants something else" and can only do the right thing.
    1. Dismantle the existing system and replace it with a new system whose purpose is to do the right thing.

3. Why does the author say the politically moderate, centrist-leaning suburban folks may be most resistant to this idea?

  • The author notes that they themselves were once resistant to this concept, until they "radically shifted how and where I live." The author suggests this background gives them empathy for those who don't want to engage with such a "challenging concept."
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