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An Introduction to General Systems Thinking (Silver Anniversary) Paperback – Jan 2001

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Dorset House; 25 Silver anniversary ed edition (January 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0932633498
  • ISBN-13: 978-0932633491
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.5 x 1.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 358 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #246,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From the Author

“When I set out to write An Introduction to General Systems Thinking, I had already written a half-dozen books on thinking -- but all in the context of thinking about computer programming. . . . I decided to leave the programming language business to others and to concentrate on more general principles of thinking. As a result, I first published The Psychology of Computer Programming and then this book. Now, more than a generation later, both books are still around, quietly doing their work.”

--from the preface to the Silver Anniversary Edition

About the Author

Gerald M. Weinberg has programmed, researched, managed, and taught both in industry and academia for more than four decades. As a principal of Weinberg and Weinberg, based in Lincoln, Nebraska, he teaches and consults in ways for people to become more productive.

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Format: Paperback
Weinberg distills the essence from von Bertalanffy's classic and manages to present it in a very accessible fashion. The book has been out of print for quite a while so it is great to see a new edition. The message and information contained in here, although originally published in 1975, is now more relevant than ever.
Weinberg covers many aspects of systems theory beginning with the main stumbling block with the present scientific paradigm: the idea that the universe is mechanistic. His treatment is much more general than Robert Rosen's in "Life Itself" but still conveys why the mechanistic notion is flawed.
He then outlines the general systems theory approach before leading into the idea that a system is simply a way of looking at the world. He then outlines the principle of indifference. This leads straight into two sections outlining various aspects of making observations. Finally he discusses behaviour and then some general systems questions.
Throughout the book he uses many examples from disparate fields in conjunction with questions for further research. It is great to see someone who doesn't preach systems but actually uses the ideas.
Definitely a must-read as we decided how to solve the myriad of issues before us.
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Format: Paperback
In computing, a timeless classic is anything that is worth reading for any reason other than to obtain a historical context after five years. If that still holds true after twenty five years, then it is truly an extraordinary piece of work. That label applies to this book. It is not about computing per se, but about how humans think about things and how "facts" are relative to time, our personal experience and environmental context.
Human thinking is a complex operation and that is the point of this book. The problems and examples presented are not those in computing, but problems in how we think about the world and how that world can be different from person to person. In many ways, Weinberg anticipates the development of the science of chaos, where small changes lead to disproportionate large changes. His example of the "small" change of a single character is a classic. A man was considering the purchase of a piece of real estate, but when told the cost was fourteen million dollars, sent the response by telegram, "No, price too high." However, somehow a character was dropped, so the agent received the message, "No price too high", purchased the property and so a classic error was invented.
Weinberg uses science and mathematics as the genesis point for most of his examples. The laws of thermodynamics, chance and simulations in state spaces are used to demonstrate the points. As someone with a wide background in science, I found his examples of how scientific thought gives us an anchor but yet alters over time excellent learning material. Thought problems are included at the end of each chapter and they cover many different areas. Some involve mathematics, others science and many could be the point of a vigorous philosophical debate.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa0a1e06c) out of 5 stars 21 reviews
53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa097ebe8) out of 5 stars An excellent introduction... June 5 2002
By Zentao - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Weinberg distills the essence from von Bertalanffy's classic and manages to present it in a very accessible fashion. The book has been out of print for quite a while so it is great to see a new edition. The message and information contained in here, although originally published in 1975, is now more relevant than ever.
Weinberg covers many aspects of systems theory beginning with the main stumbling block with the present scientific paradigm: the idea that the universe is mechanistic. His treatment is much more general than Robert Rosen's in "Life Itself" but still conveys why the mechanistic notion is flawed.
He then outlines the general systems theory approach before leading into the idea that a system is simply a way of looking at the world. He then outlines the principle of indifference. This leads straight into two sections outlining various aspects of making observations. Finally he discusses behaviour and then some general systems questions.
Throughout the book he uses many examples from disparate fields in conjunction with questions for further research. It is great to see someone who doesn't preach systems but actually uses the ideas.
Definitely a must-read as we decided how to solve the myriad of issues before us.
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa097ec3c) out of 5 stars A primer of good and fearless thinking. July 6 1998
By paulh@challenger-software.com - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is a quiet little masterpiece, where its author shares his observations of his world in a personal way. With the same light touch, he also delves into the thought structures behind these observations. This is practical scientific philosophy with a folksy, conversational, almost homespun, style that never gets lost in abstractions or strays far from living examples in everyday life. Its lack of academic bluster and techo-pomposity is refreshing and informal, yet the insights have a power that cannot help but affect your own thought processes. An example ( for me) is the classification of all systems into three types: Determinate, Medium-number, and Statistical. This notion has proven to be fantastically useful over the years. Several other observations took some nerve to put into print. The net effect of the book is, at its end, also inspirational. Here is someone showing all of us how we can deal with the big, bad world in a friendly, humourous, courageous, and empowered way.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa097f090) out of 5 stars A MUST-READ for any profession April 13 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
If I had to select a book that has influenced my thinking most, it would be this one. This book alone spurred my interest in Systems Research, and is one that I have gone back to re-read many times.
Gerald Weinberg has taken the essence of General Systems Theory and formatted it for the masses. His insight into the methodology, and his ability to combine humor with explanation makes this a must-read in the field. While many of the examples are programming-based, that does not detract from the usefullness of this work.
The publisher needs to understand the importance of this work, and put it back into print!
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa097f438) out of 5 stars Weinberg's Introduction to Systems Thinking Jan. 3 2007
By J. Spears - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Weinberg's book will not teach you how to be a systems thinker. It will, however, provide a stimulating discussion and thoughtful examination of an alternative approach to problem analysis and solution. The book is not so much about how the systems approach works or how it can be applied to complex problems as it is an invitation to his readers to explore their perceptions of what they think they know versus what they really do know. Throughout the book, Weinberg follows the strategy of leading the reader through a series of logical discussions designed to bring them face to face with their biases and misconceptions about systems vs. reductionist thinking. In doing so, Weinberg exposes the shortcomings of the reductionist approach to problem solving by demonstrating to his readers that the real solutions to some familiar and apparently simple problems are very complex.

Through his examples, Weinberg shows that by viewing a system holistically within its environment, we may be able to discern patterns of behavior/actions and recognize interactions, interrelationships, and interdependencies among the components that will be missed in a reductionist approach. From that view, we can better understand the system and, perhaps, better predict how it will evolve over time. The success of his approach is demonstrated by the fact that people are still reading and quoting his book 25+ years after it was written.

One facet of this book which I found beneficial may be a drawback for some readers. Weinberg wrote from the viewpoint of a computer programmer and a scientist. A person not versed in either field might have difficulty understanding his examples.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa097f534) out of 5 stars Great Thoughts July 18 2010
By Helge Loebler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gerald Weinberg book "An Introduction to General Systems Thinking" is one of the best books I ever read. When I started to think about system theory in the early 70s when my English was too weak to read English books I had only access to several translated books including of course authors like John von Neumann and Ross Ashby and alike. Now I'm doing research on service systems and discovered Weinberg's wonderful book. It's not only a book for experts in the field it is also a book for people who are interested in thinking. It offers a lot of great insights which are easy to understand but also challenge classical ontological thinking. For example it makes clear that a system is a set of entities which "we sat down". It's not pregiven. It is the way off looking at the world. It also makes clear that if science reduces the observable reality there always is another perspective to reduce it which is condensed in the generalized law of complimentary. The content of the book is too rich to be summarized in this short review each chapter is a gold mine but you have to dig.

In addition the book is not only something to read but it is something to work with. After each chapter it contains wonderful exercises and challenging questions. Everybody can train his thinking abilities which I think is very important for learning society. I definitely recommend this book to everybody who wants to improve her or his thinking. Who ever goes to university should, from my perspective, read this book. This book is also an entertaining one as it offers nice surprises in the way we usually think. I am very thankful to Gerald Weinberg that I had the opportunity to read his wonderful book.


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