Defining what is a system
There is a number of approaches to define what is a system. If to ask a researcher who is currently working on some kind of exploration what is a system, he would answer that this is a set of certain ways, methods, special procedures that serve to maintain some kind of activity, complete an assignment or to find a solution for a problem. On the other hand, if you ask a scientist what is a system, he would answer that this is a highly organized and structured set of a number of elements, which are of different kinds, such as interrelated and interdependent. When these elements create a system, they affect each other within their interaction in order to support the existence of the whole system and to accomplish the purpose that the system has. These are only basic definitions of what is a system, this question has much more answers and you will find them below if you keep reading.
Generally speaking, when it comes to defining what is a system, we should mean a collection of components, each of which has different characteristics, and that are organized with one common goal. The term «system» may also describe sometimes the structure of something, an organization of elements or even a particular plan. In this case, a system serves as a method of accomplishing a particular process (task). Therefore, if you have a specific method of doing something, like finding a solution for a particular problem, you can consider your method to be a system.
On the other hand, we often hear how computers are called systems when it comes to their operational properties. In this case, the term «system» describes u number of components, which the computer hardware and software consists of. All these components interact together with the purpose of making the computer machine work appropriately. If one component doesn’t work good and efficient enough, or when it is broken, the whole system stops working appropriately and the computer cannot accomplish tasks that you need. The same situation happens to all other kinds of systems. If something goes wrong with only one element, it affects all the structure and ability of a system to work well. The operating system in a computer is itself the most important element in a computer system. It is responsible for organizing, managing and providing all the needed services and makes all the programs existing in a computer accomplish their functions.
One may also call a number of different files providing certain data and organized in a specific order (for instance, in a chronological order or organized alphabetically) a system. Therefore, if you go to a library, you will see a big system consisting of many smaller systems, where all the literature and materials are structured and organized in accordance with their topic, name of the authors, year of publication and so on.
The history and the concepts of the term
There are a lot of scientists who investigated the term «system» and suggested their understanding of what is a system. Some of them argue that this is simply something to look at. In other words, this is something that we can see with our own eye, where all the processes are obvious and the interaction of the elements of the system can be easily observed. In the nineteenth century scientists tended to think that the system is something that can be research only in the context of the natural sciences, even though different concepts of understanding what is a system had appeared long time ago before that time.
Considering a number of approaches to identifying what is a system, there are also different concepts in the light of which this term may be researched. Look below to learn the most important of them.
- Environment and boundaries. According to this concept, all the world is a huge complex system consisting of a number of various interconnected parts. Every element existing in the world is a part of the surrounding us environment. There are different models of interaction between the elements of a system and we can predict their behavior in the future by analyzing their action in the past and present.
- Natural system and systems designed by a human. According to this theory, all the systems existing in the world can be divided into two types: those which were created in the process of natural occurrences and those which were created by a human. The first ones may not have an obvious objective, but they operate with a particular purpose that a man may not observe. The second type of systems is created by a human in pursue of accomplishing tasks that the human wants.
- Theoretical framework. In accordance with this approach, all the systems are divided into open and closed. The open ones can interact with the outer environment and the environment can affect all the elements of the system. The closed systems cannon be influence dby anything from outside. Nothing can touch them, all the elements exchange their energy within the system and don’t interact with the outer world.
- Process and transformation process. Here, it is about open systems. According to this concept, they represent a specific transformation process, where has to be a product of transformation. In other words, there is a process carried out, in the result of which inputs are being transformed into outputs.
- This concept means that every system is a part of a bigger system and contains other smaller systems inside. For example, there is an ecosystem, inside of which there are numerous smaller systems like human body and so on.
- System model. This concept serves to provide a comparison of a number of different views in regard to the question of what is a system.
- Systems architecture. In case of this concept, there is only one universal model for describing the processes carried out in all kinds of systems, considering different views on the issue of a system.
What is a system in a broad context
The biggest, most significant system that exists, is the universe. In the light of a question what is a system this answer would be the most complex and broad. It has no boards, no beginning no end, but it has unlimited number of components that interact between each other and make the system work. The Solar System is a perfectly organized system, where the Earth is one of the main components, although the most significant component is the Sun, which is orbited by a number of other components. The specificity of this system is that all the components are organized in such a way that each of them manages to accomplish its task separately from all the others, but together they create a unique organizational complex of unbelievable size.
Another huge system that all the people live in is the ecosystem. This system exists within the planet and represents a community of all the living organisms in the world together with other organisms that are not alive, like stone, air, water, minerals and so on. People are also a part of this great system, as well as all the animals, plants, everything that you can see around you. This kind of system has also a highly organized structure, taking into consideration that all the elements are closely connected to each other, they depend on each other and their living depends on each other. All the elements of the ecosystem interact in various ways. For example, people eat meat and products of animals, animals eat plants and plants are alive due to the energy of Sun. This is only a little example, but in fact, the connection between the elements of the ecosystem is much more deeper.
All in all, we are all surrounded by small and big systems, so when you are asked what is a system, you don’t need to think for a long time, since everything that you see around can be considered to be a system. At the same time, systems are not only around us, but we ourselves are systems also.
What is a system in the context of a human being
While people tend to think about a lot of things that surround them, they often forget to take themselves into account. A human body/organism is as much complex system as the universe is. When it comes to the body of a human in the context of a system, you should think of it as of a highly complex structure, including all the body parts of a human being. All the reactions that a human experience, all his actions and feelings, everything happening inside of the human body is a result of incredibly organized interaction between the organs of the body, which consist of a great number of cells (at a mature age, the number of cells may be higher than thirty two trillions).
Apart from it, all the components of a system in the context of a human being interact not only on the level of physiology and anatomy, but on the level of psychology also. This makes the system even more complex, since all the processes in a human organism that we can see are only the result of something that we cannot see and that is happening in the brain of a human.
Analyzing systems approaches
All the systems can be analyzed in a quantitative and qualitative manner. It is important not to confuse when analyzing different systems and to be able to distinguish natural system from the one that is made by human. Designed systems can be not only created by a man, but they can also be changed, improved, developed by a man and even ruined by a man. Natural system, on the other hand, can be only ruined by a human being.
From the point of view of artificially created systems, the society designed these systems in order to make the life of people easier and more organized. For example, there are the following artificially created systems:
- The cultural system. This kind of system represents how different components of culture can between each other. It is important to realize that a cultural system is not the same as the social system, because they represent different field of human activities. If the problem of the research concerns these two systems at the same time, they can be combined and called a sociocultural system.
- The economic system. When talking of an artificially designed system in the context of economy, we mean a specific mechanism that has to do with organization, transportation, production and distribution of different services and essential goods within certain society. The economic system represents the relations between people within one particular society and between different societies (for example, between countries, organizations and so on).
Having said that, although there is a great variety of systems (beginning with the universe and finishing with the computer operating system), all of them have many common features and properties and significant similarities. First of all, all of the systems operate with a particular purpose, there is always has to be something that the elements of a system trying to gain within the process of their interaction. Second of all, in every system all the elements are related to each other and are always in a close connection and interaction, which causes their dependence on each other.
The above-provided information will hopefully be helpful for you when investigating the issue of systems and learning what is a system in general. This information should give you some basic knowledge that can be a good starting point for your further research.
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