In the opening chapter of his edited volume, Social Systems and Design
, out from Springer in 2014, Gary Metcalf
asks if it is possible to establish ethical “first principles” for the design of social systems. Inspired by his mentor, Bela Banathy (a giant of the systems field), and pondering the potential levels of influence we might actually have over the evolutionary development of the social systems in which we are all embedded, Metcalf provocatively asks what sorts of goals should we set for ourselves and what sorts of means should we use to achieve them. In the subsequent eight chapters, a host of systems thinking luminaries including Alexander Christakis, Peter Jones, Merrelyn Emery, Thomas Flanagan and Raul Espejo (of Project Cybersyn fame) offer probing and detailed contributions to the search for answers to these questions. Along the way, readers will gain an acquaintance with the concepts behind Dialogical Design Science, Co-Laboratories of Democracy, Third Phase Science, Open Systems Theory and much more. This volume is a trans-disciplinary feast of some of the most progressive thinking going on in the systems field regarding such issues as sustainability, governance of the commons, and the maintenance and expansion of democracy. My conversation with editor, Gary Metcalf, is no less engaging and thought provoking.