Wholeness in Complex Socio-Technical Systems


  • William Joseph Toth Saybrook University


socio-technical systems


Highly complex social and technological systems are ubiquitous in the modern world.  Many of these systems are associated with high levels of energy; potential, kinetic, and human.  The consequences of system failure can be extreme.  Observation of catastrophic technological failures such as two space shuttle disasters, the nuclear power plants at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima, and many others, show clearly that creators and managers of these systems must take great care with system design and operations.  Human system failures such as those seen in espionage or mass killing cases also highlight the need for both responsible and humane organizational management and sustained attention to defensive measures.

Lack of attention to any of vast systemic issue both social and technical can result in organizational or defense system defects.  These defects can be described as holes or shadow aspects and these pertain to the technical systems, the human systems and the socio-technical system interplay.  Responsible technology and social system design requires addressing these holes and shadow aspects to eliminate them and therefore make the system complete or whole.  Organizational wholeness is a continuous process of attention to and mitigation of these types of defects.  Sustainability in this context is the continued focus on safe and secure operations and life affirming human dimensions to respond to environmental changes and adjust defenses accordingly.  This paper will describe propose a model that may be useful for hole and shadow aspect identification and issues related to their management or mitigation.

Author Biography

William Joseph Toth, Saybrook University

Saybrook PhD Student studying Organizational Systems in the Organizational Leadership and Transformation Program