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Undetected Course Change

Every organized system of interdependent parts has a primary purpose – otherwise the conglomeration wouldn’t be a “system“. Assume that at T=0, a hypothetical system whose parts are an assemblage of people and machines is placed into operation. As the figure below shows, the system will start moving toward the achievement of its purpose.

Over time, assume that our fictitious system “loses its way” because of ineffective control actions. In hierarchically structured systems, the likelihood that the internal system controllers will detect the derailment and steer the system back on course is pitifully small. That’s because hierachical forms of human organization tend to instill a false sense of infallibility and hubris in those who control the system’s trajectory. Thus, via the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance and the inability to admit mistakes, the controllers will continue to shepherd the system away from its primary purpose toward a different, and most likely less noble purpose – all the while espousing that “we are on course to achieve our objectives“.

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