2Applied Systems Thinking

Robert Edson


With advancement of technology and social process, the ability to generate new knowledge and global relationships has increased. These changes, however, have also created more complex systems and wicked problems. To help address these problems and challenges, the world is moving into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The first industrial revolution (circa 1760–1840) was a time of large machines powered by steam and wind. The systems moved tasks carried out by hand to machines and were designed to replicate manual labor. The second industrial revolution (the late 1800s to mid 1900s) ushered in large scale production and assembly lines. These systems integrated several activities and were powered through electricity. The third industrial revolution involved computer technology, electronics, and the use of information in new ways. System automation became widespread and smart systems arose based on human‐generated rule sets. We are now at the time of the fourth industrial revolution, expanding industry and systems through further advances of the digital revolution. Artificial intelligence and autonomous systems are growing and the lines between biology, cyber, and physical systems are blurring.

New challenges and new complexity. From replicating hand tasks and integrating multiple activities, to incorporating computers and artificial intelligence. Systems engineers are now faced with new systems. They must also think through problems ...

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