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General System Theory with Hallie Parry


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General System Theory is the field of study dedicated to understanding, analyzing, and manipulating complex systems. It provides an unparalleled toolset for explaining and discussing systems of all sizes and it is one of the most important and yet most unknown areas of study in software development. In this talk, I give an introduction to general systems thinking as it applies to software-driven systems and I use it as a framework to talk about my current work building a distributed system orchestration application.

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General System Theory with Hallie Parry

  2. 2. @hallie_parry About me Salesforce - 7 years LMTS - systems architect CMU ’07 - BFA/CS I do things that other people can’t or won’t do All images and video used in this presentation are original works by Hallie Parry
  3. 3. @hallie_parry Side note: art and cs GST: system of art, system of science, how do those things relate How do I use art? studies, POCs
  4. 4. @hallie_parry The secret art sauce intent audience studies
  5. 5. @hallie_parry
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  7. 7. @hallie_parry
  8. 8. @hallie_parry Agenda Introduction to systems Introduction to system theory System theory case study: Army of Darkness
  9. 9. @hallie_parry Takeaways High level understanding of system theory Strategies for abstracting and understanding systems
  10. 10. @hallie_parry Takeaways continued How to talk about a system
  11. 11. @hallie_parry What is a system? “A system is an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves something…a system must consist of three kinds of things: elements, interconnections, and a function or purpose.” -Donella, Meadows. (2013-01-18). Thinking in Systems: A Primer (Kindle Locations 327-329). Chelsea Green Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  12. 12. @hallie_parry What is a system? (cont'd) elements "What things make up the system?" interconnections "How do these things relate to each other?" purpose "What does the system do?"
  13. 13. @hallie_parry What is General System Theory? “the interdisciplinary study of systems in general, with the goal of elucidating principles that can be applied to all types of systems at all nesting levels in all fields of research.” -Wikipedia
  14. 14. @hallie_parry But what is it really? an abstraction strategy a set of abstractions created to make sense of the world around us
  15. 15. @hallie_parry Why study systems? they're everywhere the problems we face as developers are systems problems, whether we like it or not
  16. 16. @hallie_parry Abstraction Strategy: Signals and Boundaries
  17. 17. @hallie_parry Signals and Boundaries Examples Human body signals - hunger, light, temperature, tiredness Organ signals - blood flow, blood iron level, blood oxygen level, caloric availability, hormones
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  19. 19. @hallie_parry Types of systems
  20. 20. @hallie_parry Agent-Based Systems
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  24. 24. @hallie_parry Case Study: Army of Darkness our self-configuring, self-deploying, self-monitoring data center orchestration project
  25. 25. @hallie_parry Wrap up intent, audience, studies things that make up a system: elements, interconnections, purpose signals and boundaries agent-based systems Army of Darkness
  26. 26. @hallie_parry Thank you
  27. 27. @hallie_parry Further reading “Thinking in Systems: a Primer” - Donella Meadows “Signals and Boundaries: Building Blocks for Complex Adaptive Systems” - John H. Holland “An Introduction to General Systems Thinking” - Gerald M. Weinberg