I read this article on systems thinking and urbanism, and wanted to revisit a misgiving I had with the notion that “Everything is interconnected”
The idea that everything is interconnected is at once powerful and powerless. Of course everything is interconnected. If you want to actually get anything done, hover, you have to identify that which you are going to do and decide what information and fields of study are relevant to it.
If you want to get a cabinet built, you do not hire someone who knows all the facets and implications of where the cabinet, its materials and manufacture originates. You do not care about the dire implications of the temerity of building a cabinet, you just want a cabinet. The same goes for a building, a bridge or highway. Those philosopher-schmucks with the luck to get anywhere near the design process are quickly marginalized off and learn to serve coffee to this e who are actually designing, budgeting and getting the thing built.
Coming back to the house and the systems that it needs, the status quo default of a house is highly dependent inn energy and services for the home to function. Without electricity and gas for cooling, venting, and heating, water and sewer for washing and waste disposal, and garbage services for waste disposal, Most houses would not last undamaged longer than a year without damage without their network of utilities . All these utilities have a history, markets and dependencies, but electricians, plumbers and garbage men do not need to know the threads to do a good job at them.
The article I linked to at the start of course talk about the interconnections, be teen systems, not tkus that vastness of those systems themselves. While I am in awe of the complexity of those connections, I am humble to the fact that those interconnections are useless for the status quo. Supermarkets function because suppliers and consumers are all meeting their own needs, not all working through some grand master plan of synergy. The efficient and effective constriction of infrastructure for those systems does not require holistic thinking, it requires focused expertise.
The notion of holistic, lateral, or interaction thinking always comes with the notion of synergies and cost savings. But to whom? The article mentions the need to better manage and steward “systems” for the sake of “efficiency”. But for whom? The people, communities and agencies getting things done are not in the scope of these efficiency gains. Even if maintenance over 20 years does cost a seventh what replacement would, deferred maintenance is like free money for stretched budgets, especially for the newly built. Disaster make their own budgets, however, no matter how costly.
I write this as a lifelong horizontal thinker. I have two masters degrees and am pursuing a PhD in landscape ecology, botany, environmental and transportation planning. My friends love and tolerate my disparate and pedantic knowledge set. I get everything they are saying in that article. I am saying today that it is not enough to write a 3,000 word article or ten about connected systems thinking. Trying to think of all the angles is a sure way to move nowhere.