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Systems Science: another way to investigate human society

Author  :       Source  :    Chinese Social sciences Today     2013-12-04

As an emerging interdisciplinary subject, systems science focuses on research on complex systems in nature, society and science itself, something which has recently come to the fore in international academic circles. The 14th international symposium on knowledge and systems sciences was held in Ningbo from the 25th to the 27th of October.

From reductionism to systems theory

It is well known that systems science is a science which studies the relationship between the construction and the function of systems, as well as the rules of their evolution and regulation. It takes the complex systems of different fields as its research object, as well as exploring the nature and the evolutionary rules of complex systems from an overall perspective, thus reinforcing people’s understanding of the real world.

"Systems science, especially research on complex systems, actually means a transformation of the research paradigm which can transcend reductionism" said Di Zengru, dean of the School of Systems Science of Beijing Normal University. The huge scientific achievements attained by humanity in the 20th century largely depended on reductionism. The limitations of reductionism have however gradually come to the fore with the development of scientific technology. Due to this, people have become increasingly aware of further scientific understanding relying on a different research paradigm.

Studying optimized social management through systems science

With the development of social economy and the progress of scientific technology in the 21st century, systems science has wide ranging possible applications in numerous scientific fields including physics and chemistry, as well as in a number of social sciences. Some scholars believe that this kind of interdisciplinary study and comprehensive knowledge possess important theoretical implications and prospects for application.

Gu Jifa, a researcher at the Research Center for the intersection of Natural and Social Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, claimed that a large number of scholars studying systems science have begun to conduct research on social issues, especially on how to enact scientific and effective decision-making in the process of dealing with public opinion and sudden mass incidents. Out of the practices of systems science, complex network technology and multi-agent emulation techniques are both useful for dealing with social issues.

Wei Liqun, former director of the Research Office of the State Council and dean of the Chinese Academy of Social Management, said that society is undoubtedly a complex adaptive system; studying social issues through systems science is beneficial for exploring the evolutionary rules of social construction and developing methods of optimizing social management. It is also useful because it provides a theoretical foundation for systems science application in the social field so as to promote the construction and the development of systems science itself.

In the information age, marked by the rapid development of information technology, human beings face a socioeconomic system with a larger scale and a more dynamic state, something which provides more opportunities and challenges for studying complex systems. Wang Xiaofan, deputy dean of Zhiyuan College of Shanghai Jiaotong University, claimed during the symposium that network science is an emerging discipline for the study of complex systems from the perspective of networks, which will play an important part in research on big data. During recent times, one of the prominent characteristics of research on network communication is that more and more high-level empirical studies based on social networks have emerged.

Research on systemic philosophy has to be improved

Some scholars feel that systems science provides people with a new way of thinking. On the basis of systems science, philosophers and others working in related fields have carried out a philosophical analysis and an overall summary, thus establishing the basic concepts, theories and methodologies of systemic philosophy. The systemization of systemic philosophy is conducive to promoting the in-depth development of systems science.

Professor Huang Xiaohan, from the School of Marxism of Peking University, claimed that systems science is an interdisciplinary study of nature, human society and even human thinking, rather than being limited to a specific field; it is also a complex science and not a simple one, the methodology of which is systemic theory instead of reductionism. "Some research on systemic philosophy is actually a rethinking of systems science, while others have taken it to the level of meta-philosophy; in any case, systems science will continue improving with its further development", Huang added.



Translated by Chen Meina

Revised by Gabriele Corsetti




Editor: Chen Meina

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