4. Get savvy with systems

Summary of Way

Economics has long suffered from physics envy: awed by the genius of Isaac Newton and his insights into the physical laws of motion, 19th century economists became fixated on discovering economic laws of motion.

But these simply don’t exist: they are mere models, just like the theory of market equilibrium which blinded economists to the looming financial crash of 2008. That’s why 21st-century economists embrace complexity and evolutionary thinking instead.

Putting dynamic thinking at the heart of economics opens up new insights for understanding the rise of the one percent and the boom and bust of financial markets. It’s time to stop searching for the economy’s elusive control levers (they don’t exist), and instead start stewarding the economy as an ever-evolving system.

Introductory video

Relevance to digital tech

In the classic Doughnut, this category encourages us to integrate complexity and systems thinking into our understanding of economic activity, rather the simplistic notions of “rational economic man” and supply and demand graphs.

From our pilot workshops, we used this category for comments that highlighted the interconnectedness of all our different systems – and smaller than other themes, it was still significant.

Comments included:

  • “By focusing so much on climate change, which is understandable, we neglect the interconnected relationship between biodiversity and healthy ecosystems. Solving climate change is imperative, but only one part of the problem.”
  • “Whole system energy design”
  • “All tech workers will understand how their design decisions will influence energy/material use in tech”