The WelderDestiny Compass

When Systems Become Darwinian - Issue #044

Wednesday, November 1, 2017 / Perth Australia / By Niekie Jooste

In this edition of "The WelderDestiny Compass":

  • Resistance To Change
  • System To Organism
  • Darwinian Dynamics
  • Technology Has Answers

Resistance To Change

We all know what a pain it is to work with people that don't seem capable of change. Any small change that you try to introduce into their lives results in such a "push-back" that it seems to border on the paranoid.

If we are honest, each one of us sees this tendency in ourselves as well. When we are confronted by change in our personal lives or work situation, we need to be really vigilant about not being "that person" that is incapable change.

Today however, we are going to bring together a number of topics we have discussed before, and look at how this resistance to change manifests in systems and organisations, and consider how it will certainly also manifest within the technical engineering world that we inhabit.

Luckily for us, we need not be victims of the change surging towards us. With the right approach and mindset, we can be both agents for change, and beneficiaries of change.

If you would like to add your ideas to this week’s discussion, then please send me an e-mail with your ideas, (Send your e-mails to: or complete the comment form on the page below.

Now let's get stuck into this week’s topics...

System To Organism

When we look at the big political sticking points in many established economies, we see the sectors with the most funding seem to have the most problems. Sectors such as health care, education, defence and welfare seem to soak up a huge portion of the budget while having most of the problems.

The quality of outcomes within these sectors seem to have an inverse relationship with the amount of money being pumped into them.

Let us take healthcare as a typical example. In most countries where the healthcare system is highly regulated, with a lot of taxpayer money being consumed, the healthcare inflation rates are much higher than the broader consumer inflation rates. Why should this be?

Surely if technology reduces the cost of just about every other product or service, why would medical costs rise year after year? If the general populace was getting healthier as a result, then at least we could argue that we were getting value for our higher spending, but the opposite seems to be the case. As a society we are getting sicker, with chronic disease rates shooting through the roof.

Especially in the USA, healthcare has been at the centre of the political debate, but despite prognostications to the contrary, both political parties seem totally resistant to changing the status quo.

The root of the problem can be traced to the tendency of systems to become "organisms" within their own right once they are well established.

In the good old days, the stakeholders in the healthcare field were patients and healthcare providers. In particular, the healthcare providers were principally doctors. Some of dubious skill, but let us leave that as a topic for another day! Now the stakeholders in the healthcare industry are typically:

  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Government departments / Lobbyists / Lawyers / Compliance bodies
  • Insurance companies
  • Education institutions
  • Research institutions
  • Construction companies that build hospitals and clinics
  • Companies that run private and public hospitals
  • Finance companies
  • Doctors
  • Labour unions
  • Taxpayers
  • Patients

The healthcare system has become an industry where the interests of the big money stakeholders totally overshadow the interests of the individual patients. Healthcare has morphed into an organism in its own right, with many parts that need to be supported and nourished.

As an organism, it starts to fight for survival.

Darwinian Dynamics

Whether we are looking at the healthcare, education or welfare sectors, we see the same dynamics at work. Systems that have become organisms.

The problem with organisms is that they start to act in a Darwinian way. It is about survival of the fittest. Instead of having the interests of the patients foremost in their minds, each part of the healthcare organism starts to fight to get control of the most resources, and to grow the fattest. Instead of having the interests of students foremost in their minds, each part of the education organism starts to fight for its own survival.

The purpose of the system is lost in this fight for survival. Within any of these systems, it may be clear that one part of it should be cut off to better serve the patient, student or welfare recipient. Due to the survival instinct however, the purpose of the system has been corrupted.

Instead of a system that serves, the organism becomes parasitic. From noble purpose to Darwinian dynamics. There are so many grabbing hands, that there are very few hands left with which to serve its client base.

Unfortunately this situation leads to organisational resistance to change, as every part of the organism wants to make sure that it does not get less resources allocated to it.

Technology Has Answers

Within a truly free market system, such dynamics should not be able to get established. The constant creative destruction of the free market should ensure that any organisation that looses its client focus, will be replaced by another organisation delivering a better service.

Unfortunately this creative destruction mechanism cannot be given free reign in any system that has regulation associated with it. These days, almost all industries are regulated to a greater or lesser extent. This certainly includes the engineering industry.

We have previously discussed the need for regulation within the engineering industry, and came to the conclusion that blockchain technology has the promise to help with a system of "self regulation" possible through the implementation of systems that utilise smart contracts.

The problem with such a system is that there are a large part of the "compliance arm" of the engineering industry that will need to radically change. That compliance arm includes numerous government departments. That part of the organism will fight for survival!

This change will not go without a great deal of resistance, but I believe that it is inevitable. The only question is how long it will take. Will it be 5, 10 or 20 years? Will it change while kicking and screaming, or will it embrace the change?

Personally I would love to see compliance systems that circumvent direct government interference. If for no other reason, I think embracing the change is the best way forward.

Yours in welding

Niekie Jooste

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