Valuing the Commons: A Fundamental Challenge across Complex Systems
Author(s)Cutcher-Gershenfeld, Joel; Lawson, Chris
The political, economic and social landscapes of the 21st Century are increasingly dominated by complex, sociotechnical systems that are essential to human civilization, yet incompletely addressed with existing theory, tools, methods, and policies. Illustrative systems are found in transportation, information, finance, energy, health care, education, disaster response, and supply chains. Social, behavioral and economic sciences in the 20th Century were focused on hierarchical corporations and expanding markets – the organizational and institutional underpinnings of the industrial revolution. Twentieth Century successes were tempered by various “tragedies of the commons” (such as negative impacts on working conditions, human dignity, the environment, and developing economies). In the 21st Century, increasing interdependencies and accelerating rates of change are dramatically expanding the ways in which complex “systems” shape organizations and markets. Multi-level research incorporating the systems context and systems-level policies have great transformative potential – addressing externalities and expanding how we “value the commons.” This white paper highlights layers and networks of aligned (or misaligned) stakeholders, which are at the heart of these systems. Orienting social, behavioral, and economic sciences and public polices to better address stakeholders in complex systems is essential to generating new forms of value for society and mitigating catastrophic systems failures.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Engineering Systems Division
ESD Working Papers;ESD-WP-2010-08