Throughout my life, I had only approached things with a systematic view. However, I am constantly villainized for it because that’s how current society is, full of individuals that define their existence by refusing to acknowledge certain logical reasonings that don’t fit their narrative. Instead of living as one system as parts coexisting for one function, they resist that unification out of desperate fear that they jeopardize their status as a unique existence and become replaceable. Hiding behind ethics and subjective belief to explain their absurdity for why they choose to keep society inefficiently separated when in truth, every being is replaceable. Automation replaces humans in the trade industry. Humans replace the hegemon of every region in this world. Humans give birth to humans that would replace them. So why resist becoming part of an efficient, unified system? I approach things systematically because there must be at least a logical reason behind every action I, as a living, self-aware being, make, or else I become inefficient, obsessed in defending my own individualism. This approach, taught to me at a young age by my family of engineers, has led me to become an engineer, with its innate desire to achieve systematic efficiency. To become an efficient system means to become a functioning whole, in which segregation, discrimination, and any evil that hinders society’s progression are eliminated.
For systemic viewers, efficiency is the goal above all else. Without efficiency, the system becomes stagnated. If the system becomes stagnated, then it is criticized and replaced with a more efficient system. I chose to become an engineer because not only does their method of learning and thinking systematic, but they also prioritize efficiency. For example, engineers in thermodynamics had sought a machine that could efficiently convert heat into work, hence after constant trials, gave creation to the Carnot cycle, the most efficient heat engine in the world. The idea of striving for efficiency made logical sense as it yielded the most benefit, or in the Carnot cycles case, work. It was an ideology I could get behind after having lived my life without any desire besides enjoying life. Maybe it is who I am, but I can’t imagine myself just enjoying life without the desire to achieve something worth putting all my effort into. So, what does efficiency mean to me?
From a functionalist’s viewpoint, “efficiency is viewed as a morally neutral value, concerned with the realization of whatever goals have been set” (Rizvi, 1993). Meaning, efficiency is reliant only on the rationality of facts and judgments that are distinctly logical. However, contrary to what you might think, I am not a functionalist who believes in only rationality through logic. This definition based on a sociological theory of society called structural functionalism is inherently broad and doesn’t consider good and evil. Instead, the efficiency I talk about follows a narrower, more specified version of structural-functionalism. A version with an added notion being, “efficiency cannot be judged without a reference to some further and more specific criteria” (Rizvi, 1993). Without a reference, efficiency can have many alternative broad definitions that cause inefficiency as one efficient method won’t effectively apply to all. Reference, such as efficiency in human labor, monetary cost, suffering, time, etc, unlike the broadness of structural functionalism, allows values to be allocated based on a particular situation, becoming practical. If I can achieve efficiency with the reference being my life, then I shouldn’t do things that hurt myself or others who are a part of it. My biggest regret in life was being inefficient, waking up every morning feeling like I had wasted my time doing nothing when I had the potential to do something.
To me, humanity as an efficient system is not when everyone’s success and suffering are essential. Instead, it is when everyone, as valued parts, works cooperatively towards improvement and progression as an entire system. Even if failure is inevitable and the goal cannot be immediately achieved, as long as everyone continues to seek improvement, the system is as efficient as it can be. Value in this efficient system is allocated to an individual’s desire to be unified, understanding of what each part plays, and willingness to improve as the system improves.
One of the significant criticisms towards systematic viewers and why they are villainized in modern society is the condescending labels they put on those that aren’t capable of improving the system or fitting in the system. In an “era that is more sensitive to what was once called the handicapped, and that is now referred to as exceptional children or physically challenged children,” I agree that the treatment towards those with disabilities by traditional systematic viewers is terrible (Carlson, 1992). For example, a functionalist, despite labeling every part of a system as necessary, would dehumanize them in order to obtain a logical reason for existing, such as living for the purpose of being experimental rats for the medical community or being extra baggage that their caretaker has to pay which helps put money back into the economy. However, even people “sympathetic to those who were raised with impairment, would rather seek ways to normalize them than to alter society into accepting the imperfection that society recognizes” (Carlson, 1992). Meaning that those sympathetic towards the disabled would prefer unification over the individual and system’s well-being even in a modern era. Why, because like a part being forcibly shoved to fit an empty position within a system rather than seeking one that could fully utilize their capabilities, both the part and system would be damaged in the process. So, instead of achieving maximum efficiency with the system, the part becomes no different than a hindrance placed to show a false sense of unity for empathetic people. One can’t just put jigsaw puzzles together at random positions and expect it to come out like the picture on the box. To force integration only causes the system and parts to become damaged. I cannot tell anybody what specific reference could maximize efficiency when utilizing a disabled person. Still, I can say that there are positions in which being handicapped could just be as or even more advantageous than someone non-handicapped within the overall system.
That is why I identify as a systematic viewer, as an efficient system is achieved when everyone has a logical reason for being in their position. That logical reasoning becomes the why they are part of the system. A disabled person doesn’t fit in not because they are handicap, but only if they lose that reason in societies attempt to normalize them into a position not suited for them. Even if that reason was working at a trade job, working with medical researchers in bringing understanding and awareness, or being the source of happiness of another person’s life, they all would contribute to the system’s functionality or improvement. Of course, there is the option of not being a part of any system, however humans all have a desire to be a part of something.
I personally desire to be a part of a system of my choosing that best fits me because I know what it is like being forced to be part of a beneficial system as an outlier. In my case were boy scouts, martial arts, and the military, which were all respected organizations. Despite the prestige of these organizations, I didn’t want to be a part of them as my presence held no actual value or reasoning besides filling up space. It makes sense as I was originally forcibly unified to them out of pity from my parents who believed that I would become useless since I fitted in with less prestigious ones, like dungeons and dragons. Luckily, I had an affinity and found my reasoning with engineering or else I would have dropped out now given the freedom to do so. Overall, from my experience, I learned that, unlike a functionalist or a sympathetic individualist who forces unification, real unity can be achieved without sacrificing efficiency by placing the parts, dependent on a reference, at the right place that fully utilizes and appreciates the value they bring.
How systematic viewers ended up being the antagonists in humanity’s story, such as in movies, religion, and even a children’s book, is because of their generalizing nature, which doesn’t acknowledge humans as imperfect beings. They don’t consider that humans make inefficient decisions sometimes for social, ethical, or personal reasons that make up parts of their complexity. In their mind, the idea of treating humans as machines that have common functions is more reasonable than considering each part’s unique complexity. Hence why systematic viewers are villainized. Although I hated to admit it, as a child, I also had a similar issue when generalizing things that I began to oversimplify and define based on it. For example, I had stated once that “all outdated methods would subsequently hinder the progression of society as a whole” as there is “no reason to hold onto” them (Tran, 2012). I labeled parts, whether they were outdated or valuable, based on common knowledge of their function rather than attempting to learn about their complexity, such as what made writing and calling unique within the general knowledge of communication. As a result, oversimplification became the biggest issue as every method with the same common function was generalized into one understanding that didn’t truly reflect whether they were outdated or not. The oversimplification created ignorance that contradicted what it meant to be a systematic viewer, seeking knowledge to explain the logic behind things. Being a child, I lacked the desire to understand others and consider social, ethical, or personal reasons because it would complicate the process of knowing what was outdated and what wasn’t. However, by doing so, I realized I was purposely choosing to generalize out of laziness, becoming illogical. In a way, that made me a villain rather than a systematic viewer because I was judging people without reasoning besides my ignorance stemming from to put effort. To have a systematic view requires a desire to understand the complexity of parts to overcome its generalizing nature that can oversimplify parts.
I’ve talked about effectiveness, a major criticism of a systematic viewer, and their weakness, but I have yet to talk about what a systematic view is. In a more practical sense, I’ve lived my life systematically by categorizing things based on whether there was logical reasoning behind them or not. However, what is a systematic view? “A systematic view is the view that all systems are composed of interrelated subsystems” (Koskinen, 2013). For example, humanity is a system full of smaller systems, such as the economy, government, military, etc., which is full of smaller systems that are all connected. School is a system that consists of an elementary school system, middle school system, high school system, summer school system, and college system. Each of those systems has a smaller system. As each system is narrowed down, eventually, one can find the part they play within the entire system. With a systematic view, I can make sense of the world that became much bigger than just school and family from when I was in elementary.
An efficient system can never be maintained if each part chooses to resist one another, refusing to harmonize for an aligned purpose. However, how can one double-check a part knowing the judgment was made logically and not out of ignorance? The method I use to double-check if a part is unnecessary or essential is by checking the result of integration. Taken from the definition of system engineers, “integration refers to the activity of combining several implemented system elements and activating the interfaces to form a realized system that enables interoperation between the system elements and other systems in the environment to satisfy system requirements’’ (Rajabalinejad, 2020). In simpler words, integration is about combining multiple systems and ensuring that they can harmonize. The success of the integration is based on the result of the combined system as a whole and how it remains aligned with its requirement. Society as a system can’t just forcefully integrate such unnecessary parts because “failure to achieve proper integration creates risks and wastes valuable resources’’ (Rajabalinejad, 2020). A system made by force integration will never work. Instead, it will only jeopardize the system’s efficiency permanently, like adding a racist to a group of minorities, a recipe for disaster. Although efficiency depends on a reference and a systematic view doesn’t consider an individual’s complexity, parts and subsystems within the main system still have to be double-checked to maintain overall efficiency.
This method can be used to stop things like racism, sexism, and every type of discrimination that have hindered humanity from uniting as one. However, at the same time, this could potentially result in utilitarianism as the system efficiency might become an excuse to discriminate rather than to stop discrimination. Hence a systematic viewer must also expand their knowledge, especially towards ethics, and always seek a path that gives way for future improvement, without the need to sacrifice the minority. I truly believe that allowing racism and oppression against minorities will never be superior to when all of humanity is one, even if that might never be achieved. The path of a systematic viewer when dealing with humans requires a little blind faith towards the possibility of achieving max efficiency without having to compromise the system or the individuals. Who knows, perfect harmonization of all of humanity might happen one day?
Contrary to the beginning of the paper, I don’t hate individualism. I merely wanted to address the misconception that a systematic view jeopardizes a person’s uniqueness because it doesn’t consider their complexity even if it acknowledges it. Knowing that, what role does individualism play in a system? The role of individualism is to improve efficiency within a system. Associated traits of individualism such as “independence, autonomy, agency, emotional detachment to others, and competition” promote efficiency (Van Unchelon, 2000). In a way, it can be interpreted as disunity, which goes against efficiency as a system. However, to say it goes against the system is completely wrong as autonomy and competition can result in self-empowerment and self-growth, allowing individuals to improve beyond the system’s expectation. As a systematic viewer, acknowledging the limitation of people as individuals is vital. However, also acknowledging that limitless potential of humans as they can one day feel competitive, motivated, or assertive from independence to being able to go above and beyond their function is even more vital. Hence, I’ve realized that humanity got to where it’s at because of individuals who sought to go beyond their system’s expectation, such as philosophers and scientists who sought to understand the world when most of humanity didn’t care and even went against them. A system is improved by individuals who never felt content with the status quota and always sought improvement because of their individuality. As a systematic viewer and an engineer, it was vital for me to recognize the role individualism plays, especially considering that my field is about humans working with automation and not for it. Individualism can’t be automated. Hence, it’s important to know the role individualism plays in a system.
What makes humans unique is that they don’t have to stick to one function. A person who worked most of their life in one trade job could go back to school or learn a new trade after being replaced by automation. If it is the system’s fault for refusing the person to do so, then the system will change as individuals will improve it so that there will always be opportunities for people to continue improving themselves. There is a reason why an efficient system, heavily reliant on humans, values an individual’s willingness to seek improvement for this very reason. However, because of the inherent cruelty of using the word replace on another human, I will always sound like a villain. Even as efficiency and systematic views are newly defined to acknowledge and value an individual, I can’t help but struggle to free myself from the association that systematic viewers don’t view people as people, but dead machine parts. Maybe that assumption is slightly true, but I know as an engineer to never hold any expectations for people to function similar to a machine rather to believe that their individualism will give rise to something better. So, does that still make it wrong to view things systematically? I’m not a functionalist who believes that both good and evil things exist for logical reasons or a reductionist that believes an individual can never achieve maximum efficiency without the system. I am a systematic viewer who just needs a logical reason behind everything in this world.
I can say I began when I first realized that I was inefficient in making those around me and myself happy. Hence, from then on, I viewed things systematically so that I wouldn’t make the same mistake again.
Carlson, Elof Axel. “Human Imperfection: Unresolved Responses.” The Quarterly Review of Biology, vol. 67, no. 3, 1992, pp. 337–341.
Koskinen, Kaj U. “Systemic View and Systems Thinking.” Knowledge Production in Organizations, 2013, pp. 13–30., doi:10.1007/978–3–319–00104–3_3.
Rajabalinejad, Mohammad, et al. “Systems Integration Theory and Fundamentals.” Safety and Reliability, vol. 39, no. 1, 2020, pp. 83–113., doi:10.1080/09617353.2020.1712918.
Rizvi, Fazal. “Efficiency, Utopia and Making Democratic Hope Practical.” Social Alternatives, vol. 12, no. 2, 1993, p. 20.
Tran, Viet. “Why We Need to Learn Different Method of Communication.” Medium, Writing 150 Spring 2021, 7 Mar. 2021, medium.com/writing-150-spring-2021/why-we-need-to-learn-different-method-of-communication-49d352ce5e53.
Van Uchelen, Collin. “Individualism, Collectivism, and Community Psychology.” Handbook of Community Psychology, 2000, pp. 65–78., doi:10.1007/978–1–4615–4193–6_3.