Veit's Blog

Reading Review: System Dynamics


A big thank you goes to Sumana Harihareswara for, among other things, giving her okay to be named here and reviewing the blog post thoroughly before it was published.

A while ago, I asked a question on the Zulip instance hosted by the Recurse Center. It boiled down to this: “Are most system dynamics races to the bottom?”

Now, this question is obviously too broad and general to answer, and I wanted to know whether other Recursers had good resources and/or insights into the nature of societal dynamics and what forms they take on. The discussion was fun, generally productive, and completely off-topic—I posted it in a stream called “small question”, because no other general question-asking channel exists, although it completely mischaracterizes the nature of the question.

Anyway, I was sent down a whole lot of rabbit holes through this discussion, out of which I emerged only about a week ago—almost exactly a month after I had asked the question. On the way, I learned about the works—and existence—of Niklas Luhmann, was sent to Slate Star Codex a number of times, heard about the Red Queen’s race as an illustration for economic dynamics, and a whole lot of other things.

Most notably, I was sent on a journey of reading and thinking by Sumana Harihareswara, who correctly noted that maybe I should stop pretending I could ignore the social sciences, to which the question belongs. Her exact words were: “You might want to consider reading these pieces on various kinds of system dynamics”.

I want to talk a bit about the suggestions she made, blatantly quoting a reading list she kindly gave me, verbatim.

Before going through the list I want to say that I’ve not finished any of the books yet—life got in the way, and I was already reading a couple of other books I wanted to complete first—, but have read all of the articles, and you should too. Or rather, you might want to consider reading these pieces on various kinds of system dynamics.

Let’s start with the articles:

And then there are the books I haven’t read, so I won’t tell you what they are about in my own words, and instead just quote Sumana:

In other words, I have a new stack of books next to my bed.

All of the things I linked above—the ones I’ve read, anyway—are worth a read, no matter whether you are interested in the original question or not. If you have more articles or books like these up your sleeves, feel free to pass them along!

Thank you, Sumana.