Cyclical history and generations

If systems change over time, the change may follow a linear or cyclical pattern.

For people who would prefer to listen to a description and critical evaluation on cyclical patterns, a recent lecture is “Thoughts on Cyclical History & Generations” | Prof. CJ | May 22, 2017 | The Dangerous History Podcast (episode 0140, 1h53m) is at .  This covers:

  • Ancient conceptions of cyclical time
  • The concept of linear time
  • Some modern conceptions of cyclical time
  • The generational theory of William Strauss & Neil Howe, authors of (among other things) the famous book The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy
  • What the Strauss-Howe theory says about recent American history as well as about its present & future
  • CJ’s thoughts on Strauss & Howe’s theory

For a human system, the cycle has been described as a saeculum with a periodicity of about 80 years, with four turnings (analogous to spring, summer, autumn, winter) of about 20 years each.  This research is explained online at The LifeCourse Method, published circa 2012.  The generational theory is more thoroughly explained by William Strauss and Neil Howe | The Fourth Turning | Broadway Books | 1997, (which has a preview on Google Books, as well as on Amazon).  There is a Wikipedia page on Strauss-Howe generational theory, as well as a continuing discussion at .

This theory is based on Anglo-American history dating back to the 1400s, and admits that other societies could be on different cycles.  While William Strauss passed away in 2007, Neil Howe is still active with his research, and even posts at  A search on “Neil Howe, turnings” rapidly turns up more interviews and recently published articles.

#fourth-turning, #generational-theory

Question for systems community: How to apply systems thinking?

Hi all systems people!

I am a recent graduate from Aalto University, Finland, where I studied in the interdisciplinary Creative Sustainability master’s degree program. Systems thinking was one of the bedrocks of the program, and we were fortunate to have David Ing teach us about systems sciences in one of our courses. David has been giving me advice after the course, and after a recent conversation about how to apply systems thinking, he requested that I post my question to SysCoI. So here goes.

My question is: How would you advice a recent graduate entering the workforce to apply systems thinking? Where would you start and what practices would you implement? I would also love to hear any stories of how you have applied systems thinking and practices to real life problem settings.

Thank you already in advance!



Capitalism and the principal-agent problem

Within a capitalist system, perhaps there’s more than one way to distribute moral hazard.  Here’s a concrete view of an investor-dominated approach at Apple, as compared to a managerial-dominated approach at Google.

Which principal-agent problem is more vexing? Stock-market returns are one, albeit imperfect, way of answering this question and since the initial developments, Google has far outperformed Apple. But that pattern is flipped if the time frame is restricted to the past year. So it won’t be known for many years to come if Apple or Google has a sharper financial strategy.

More importantly, though, how do these strategies impact the lives of everyday people? A capitalist system aims for the efficient allocation of capital, and indeed, workers have a better shot at seeing median wages increase when money is being put to its most productive use. So to an extent, how they fare under each system has to do with who is deciding where and how profits get invested. When managers reallocate profits, that reallocation benefits from the capabilities and knowledge that companies have built over decades, but suffers from the possibly poor incentives of managers. When investors are the ones reallocating profits, however, the scope of the reallocation can be broader, theoretically leading to more innovation; at the same time, those investors don’t have preexisting organizational capabilities and they may suffer from their own short-term time horizons.

Even if one considers the disparities in the shares of wealth accruing to labor and capital problematic—and there certainly are other strategies for addressing those disparities—making sure that managers and investors are dividing their responsibilities on capital allocation efficiently is critical for making the economic pie as big as it can be. And in that regard, while the problems of Google’s model are significant, they are also well appreciated. The excesses of Apple’s model and the widespread deployment of share buybacks are just as dangerous—and not nearly as well understood.

“Capitalism the Apple Way vs. Capitalism the Google Way” | Mihir A. Desai | July 10, 2017 | The Atlantic at

The Atlantic: Capitalism the Apple Way vs. Capitalism the Google Way