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Re: [ontology-summit] Large-scale engineered systems vs. large-scale soc

To: Ontology Summit 2011 discussion <ontology-summit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ali SH <asaegyn+out@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2012 15:00:04 -0500
Message-id: <CADr70E0isRNRkBvgJFk78fS9HhhoJOe8zAF6F_A1zMxBxYuaDw@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Dear Joe,

I like the thrust and would like to agree with the conclusion, but there are several issues that I still find unsettling.

On Fri, Jan 20, 2012 at 1:41 AM, joseph simpson <jjs0sbw@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Very interesting comments....

It may be possible to consider a system as a "constraint on variation."

If the defining constraint is an artifact of human activity, then these systems may be classified as artificial systems.

If the defining constraint is not an artifact of human activity, then these systems may be classified as natural systems.

Algae and bacteria growth in a free flowing river would be a natural system.

Hmmm. But if there is a city upstream and it is producing effluent which flows down and into the local ecosystem of the algae and bacteria, is it still natural? It even seems that we all, in a roundabout way are directly participating in say http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_Garbage_Patch . The particular local environment is coupled in a more apparent way to choices individuals make in seemingly distinct if not loosely coupled systems far away and not obvious connected.
Algae and bacteria growth in a waste-water treatment plant would be considered an artificial system.

Cities are artificial systems, even though they contain natural systems (people, animals, and plants).

It may be useful to consider the primary function of an artificial system as an additional classifying attribute.

I can see the utility in clarifying conceptual intent via distinction, but I worry that it glosses over very real blurry boundaries. 

One of my principal concerns is that the delineating of a system by definition excludes many things from consideration. Can we try to explicitly capture the externalities as part of the system boundary? Recognizing that we can't wait until we know everything, nor have the ability to go into tremendous detail about each system, can we develop a mechanism that helps make a system "aware" of its limits? Might this also be part of what we mean when we say that a system is "extensible" or "upwards" compatible?

The other point is --- are the values and priority judgments used to define a system part of the system itself? If they are rather part of the metalanguage behind the system, to what degree will we model their effect and relation to elements of the system itself? Should they be made explicit as part of the system model? Will it reside in some documentation or in the heads of the people who created the system model? What if one of these commitments changes?

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