The world is a hierarchy of systems.We necessarily perceive these systems in their attractors – in other words, An attractor defines a stable system. So when we’re trying to understand systems, what we’re really looking at are attractors within attractors.
To understand them, we can go two ways:
- Up, to understand how the larger context, its Environment or super-system in the hierarchy of systems, acts as a contextual Constraint on the system in question, reducing its degrees of freedom and restricting it to certain Attractors.
- Down, to understand how the system’s components, or sub-systems in the hierarchy of systems, interact to create a certain (stable) system behaviour, i.e. how attractors emerge from its System Dynamics.
An indication for switching levels is when.
Scale-free Abstractions reduce the cognitive cost of both work on different levels (re-usability) and switching between them (unification), which helps us Move up and down the ladder of abstraction.
A further Strategy to maximise our cognitive leverage is to Start system descriptions top-down.