Jay Forrester, the founder of System Dynamics, a man regarded by many as a legend, was a guest lecturer in SDM’s System Design class. At 92, Forrester is still relentless at finding the true implications of public policies through system dynamic simulations and working to correct policy.
His work in the 70’s and onwards on the limits to growth led him to believe that people are consuming and growing beyond the world’s capacity and that disastrous consequences will follow. The implication of this belief is harsh; humanity should stop striving for growth and instead maintain a net growth of zero.
Most extreme opinions are a product of dichotomous “black and white” thinking. This case is entirely different. Extensive research, innovation and his boldness to face an unpleasant revelation created this extreme view.
Forester realizes that it is futile to lobby for such changes. Policy makers cannot radically change the direction of policy without a strong support of constituents. The public will come to support a change only if it understands Forrester’s models and calculations. To “make” the public capable of understanding, Forrester started a K-12 system dynamics education system.
Modern economy is based on the assumption of continuous growth. The “time value of money” ($100 today is worth more than $100 next year, since it could be invested and grow in a year) is dire to the existence of the stock market, banks and any form of investment. Policy makers, capital markets, technology innovators, business schools and even the basic human desire all strive for improvement of productivity and growth. Can we even imagine a world with no growth? Dare we undertake such a radical social experiment? Can we afford not to?
Source: image from Berlin Museum by Cornelisz Anthonisz http://www.smb.museum/smb/babylon/show_text.php?page_id=1&lang=en