Content-type: text/html Downes.ca ~ Stephen's Web ~ Systems: The Purpose of a System is What It Does

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

I've had discussions with people from time to time about the difference between networks and systems, and to me one of the main differentiators is this: a system has a purpose, and a network doesn't. Sometimes this difference can be difficult to parse, and this phrase, which originates with Stafford Beer, sits right along that dividing line. The idea that "The purpose of a system is what it does" (POSIWID) allows us to retroactively assign an intent to a system, even if it was not designed that way. A network, by contract, does not imbue cognitive properties; the structures and processes are purely physical, with no cognitive guidance whatsoever.

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada
stephen@downes.ca

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Last Updated: Jul 15, 2024 02:08 a.m.

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