Dimensions of Systems Thinking in a Changing Planet

Monday, 17 February 2014
Grand Ballroom B (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
N. Peter Whitehead , NSF, Arlington, VA
The world cannot afford to build everything with the same risk management planning as advanced spacecraft or jetliners. Still, the systems approach that landed a man on the moon has a prominent place in planning for the effects of climate change.  Systems thinking that finds and examines key leverage points as the planet changes can help to optimize the welfare of the population over the next century.  Many of these leverage points may be axiological and cultural, requiring objective thinking and outscoping on the part of decision makers.  Some leverage points are already known such as expanding education in the developing world.  In those areas we must take a systems approach to funding and implementation.  Other leverage points are known and yet summarily ignored such as the effect of the local value system on the success of a clean water project. 

We must educate the developing world to prepare for a changing planet – a deceptively straightforward statement with profound axiological implications.  In this presentation, we will discuss an improved methodology for instructing decision makers at all levels in the fundamentals of systems thinking.  We feel that this approach provides the capability to span the gap between what we worry about and what will actually change lives and outcomes.