Tag: Systems Science

Minnesota: Making distinctions between labor forces in the state system

By Matt Johnson

Diagram 1

Making distinctions between different levels of a system is an important first step to thinking about systems in a systematic way. But how can this be accomplished?

This can be accomplished by utilizing Diagram 1 as a visual aide. As Diagram 1 illustrates, the United States is the primary system, or general system, whereas the Region, Division, State, County, City, Zip Code, Census Track, and Block Group are all sub-systems of the United States.

And in this blog, distinctions will be made between the labor forces in the Minnesota system, the Hennepin County System, and Minneapolis system. Making these distinctions will help partition out where these respective systems reside in the grand scheme of things, and how their respective labor forces differentiate from each other. But first, two terms will be defined: labor force and system.

What is a labor force?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a labor force is a population of workers who are either working in the marketplace or who are actively looking for work in the marketplace.

Indeed, we should note a labor force does not account for those persons not participating in the marketplace. The point here is we will be looking at those citizens who are actively engaged in the marketplace via the Minnesota labor force, the Hennepin County labor force, and the Minneapolis labor force.

What is a system?

The simplest definition contains three parts, or three conditions: a system contains elements, these elements interact, and a function is produced from this interaction. These elements could be a small group of elements or a large group of elements. Of course how elements exist in the system is either observable or unobservable (we will not address the unobservable or uncountable in this blog).

This means a person could observe nine baseball players in dark-blue jerseys on a baseball diamond. These baseball players would then be the elements of the system. Furthermore, these nine baseball players in dark-blue jerseys would be interacting with each other, while out in the field or while hitting, throughout the nine innings of the game. And the interactions in this small system would produce an outcome for the baseball team in dark-blue jerseys (possible outcomes produced would be a win or a loss).

For purposes of this blog, we will assume these three conditions are satisfied.

The Labor Force

To recall, we will focus on three levels of the nine-level system presented in Diagram 1: state, county, and city. Before proceeding, we should note that the systems levels of metro area, district/ward, and neighborhood were not included in Diagram 1 for brevity (those levels of the system will be examined in future blogs).

First, and moving forward, what kind of systems behavior should we see in the state labor force? That is, should we see positive, negative, or no growth since 2006?

Graph 1

As we can see, the labor force of Minnesota has been trending upwards since at least the 1st Quarter of 2006. Indeed, we also see that the market has fluctuated quite a few times, but it’s important that we understand that this fluctuation is normal behavior for a stochastic (probabilistic) system such as a labor force. So when we say the labor force of Minnesota has been trending upwards since at least the 1st Quarter of 2006, we are saying the overall behavior of the system has been positive.

Second, what kind of systems behavior should we see in the county labor force? That is, should we see positive, negative, or no growth since 2006?

Graph 2

Much like the Minnesota labor force, we can see in Graph 2 that the Hennepin County labor force has been trending upwards since 2006 as well. Sure! It to has fluctuated throughout, but again, that’s to be expected in a probabilistic system such as a marketplace.

Third, what kind of systems behavior should we see in the city labor force? That is, should we see positive, negative, or no growth since 2006?

Graph 3

In the observations of the three levels of the Minnesota system, we see that the Minneapolis labor force has been trending upwards since 2006 as well. Again, we observe peaks and valleys in the data, but the overall behavior has been positive. Thus we have seen positive growth over a ten-year period at the state, county, and city levels of the system, and making these distinctions has enlightened us by delving a bit deeper into the economic system of Minnesota.

Here are some questions we might want to ask ourselves. Would we continue to see this positive labor force growth over the past 10 years if we examined various zip codes in Minneapolis? By making distinctions and partitioning out say the 55411 and the 5549, would we see similar growth in both zip codes, for example? Would we see this same positive behavior if we examined various Minneapolis neighborhoods like Seward, Fulton, or Jordan, or would we see differences? And finally, would we see this same positive behavior if we examined various areas – a census track or block group – located inside various Minneapolis neighborhoods?


Matt Johnson is a writer for the Urban Dynamics blog; and is a mathematical scientist. He has also contributed to the Iowa State Daily and Our Black News.

You can connect with him directly in the comments section, and follow him on Facebook

Photo credit: Pixabay






Copyright ©2017 – The Systems Scientist

Radio Jedi co-hosts Donald and Jamar invite TSS’s Matt Johnson onto the BRBD Show

By TSS Admin

brbd-v1Our very own Editor-in-chief, and research scientist, Matt Johnson will be making his radio debut as a guest on the Black Republican Black Democrat Show this Saturday, February 11th, at 6 pm on Twin Cities News Talk in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

He will join radio Jedi co-hosts Donald Allen (R) and Jamar Nelson (D) for the 6 to 7 pm central time hour. Together, they will take a closer look at the socio-economic data – crime, employment, housing, etc. – for Minneapolis, and other American cities. They will be delving into Matt’s “Number Shrewdness” to get the real scoop on the urban numbers that are not always presented in a truthful light.

What’s going on in Chicago and other cities? Why is there such disparity in economic wealth between racial groups? What might be done to address such issues? These are just a few of the questions that may be addressed during this Saturday’s show.

Where do you listen?

For our Twin Cities’ readers, just simply turn the terrestrial dial to AM 1130 or FM 103.5. For our national readers, just simply download the iHeartRadio app or you can listen LIVE via the world-wide web by going to www.TwinCitiesNewsTalk.com, which is an iHeartRadio station.


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Copyright ©2017 – The Systems Scientist

Defining the Crime of Larceny

“Crime is a wide and complex subject. It is understood by very few people. And it influences different parts of a society in different ways.”

By Matt Johnson, The Systems Scientist

The criminal justice system is a highly complex and adaptive system. It interacts with an economic system in ways that are not very well understood; it interacts with a political system in ways that are not very well understood; and it interacts with a social system in ways that are not very well understood. In addition, all of these other systems are highly complex and adaptive systems in their own right.

Minnesota Statute 609.52
Minnesota Statute 609.52

But within the criminal justice system, there exist the definition of crime. In addition, not only is crime defined within a criminal justice system but the criminal justice system also defines different types of crime with different types of conditions that satisfy the manifestation of a particular crime; and then the criminal justice system takes it a step further and appoints sentencing that is relative to the particular crime committed.

For example, 2015 Minnesota Statute 609.52 defines theft, otherwise known as larceny, utilizing several sub-definitions, which are also called subdivisions, in the context of property, movable property, value, article, representing, trade secret, services of another, Motor vehicle, and a few others. As the definition of 609.52 illustrates,

(1) “Property” means all forms of tangible property, whether real or personal, without limitation including documents of value, electricity, gas, water, corpses, domestic animals, dogs, pets, fowl, and heat supplied by pipe or conduit by municipalities or public utility companies and articles, as defined in clause (4), representing trade secrets, which articles shall be deemed for the purposes of Extra Session Laws 1967, chapter 15 to include any trade secret represented by the article.

But this is how Minnesota defines theft. Not every state defines it quite the same way, although it should be noted that each law in the United States must be constitutional.

In the case of the Republic of California, theft is defined under larceny as a penal code in Chapter 5 of the California penal code book, specifically penal code (PC) 484, and explained in great depth from PC 484 through PC 502.9. As the penal code book defines larceny in PC 484,

Every person who shall feloniously steal, take, carry, lead, or drive away the personal property of another, or who shall fraudulently appropriate property which has been entrusted to him or her, or who shall knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defraud any other person of money, labor or real or personal property, or who causes or procures others to report falsely of his or her wealth or mercantile character and by thus imposing upon any person, obtains credit and thereby fraudulently gets or obtains possession of money, or property or obtains the labor or service of another, is guilty of theft.

Crime is a wide and complex subject. It is understood by very few people. And it influences different parts of a society in different ways. In the case of a city like Minneapolis, larceny does not happen at the same rates or numbers within different parts of the city. But perhaps this understanding of what larceny is and where it happens the most can provide some valuable information of the dynamics of the general system of Minneapolis and its respective subsystems.

2015 5th and 13th Neighborhood Crime ComparisonFor instance, although the north side of Minneapolis – the 4th and 5th Wards – experiences the greatest numbers and rates of crime, none of the neighborhoods within those wards are actually the number one neighborhood for total number crimes. That honor belongs to Downtown West which resides in both the 3rd and 7th wards.

How many crimes does Downtown West experience on a monthly basis, a quarterly basis, and an annual basis? What is the type of crime that is most reported? And with some knowledge about that respective subsystem, could that type of crime and its rate be predicted with some certainty? Questions ought to facilitate more questions.

Who are those that commit larceny? Are they residents of the 3rd and 7th Wards or are they residents of other wards? Why do people commit larceny? What type of people commit larceny; that is, what is their economic and social background? Would it be reasonable for these people to come from a stable ward in the south part of Minneapolis or would it be reasonable for these people to come from an unstable ward in the north part of Minneapolis? And what exactly is the make-up of the Downtown West neighborhood?

For more on the topic of criminal justice, see Crime Patterns: Comparing the 5th Ward to Minneapolis and Diversity and Today’s Minneapolis Police Department.

**Remember, there is nothing more American than discourse. You are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated!

A New Page: Minneapolis, MN

By Matt Johnson, The Systems Scientist

Photo Courtesy of Dan Anderson
Photo Courtesy of Dan Anderson

Welcome to the Minneapolis, MN overview page. This page also doubles as the page for the General Minneapolis System, or GMS. As a systems scientist in the emerging field of systems science, and as someone who was born and raised in Minneapolis, it is my goal to help educate and interact with the general public, community leaders, business and industry leaders, and policy makers in Minneapolis in achieving a greater understanding of Minneapolis as a system.

By system composition, the General System of Minneapolis is composed of an ecological system, an economic system, a cultural system, and a political system. Further explanation of these system components can be found in the subsequent pages linked to this page. But more than these subsystems of Minneapolis, the city is an accumulation of its history dating back to the emergence of industry around the Falls of St. Anthony, its dynamics between the city itself and its respective groups and individual citizens, and between the groups and citizens themselves spanning history to the present day.

In short, Minneapolis is, and has been, a complex web of agents (people and groups) interacting and engaging to find their economic well-being, cultural recognition and acceptance, political representation and application, and ecological existence and harmony. In systems science, Minneapolis would be called a Complex Adaptive System, or CAS…Read more here.

For further exploration of the dynamics of Minneapolis, please feel free to explore Economies, Policies, and Systems and Analyzing a Crime Pattern of a General System.

**Remember, there is nothing more American than discourse. You are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated!

A Starting Point for Systems Language

By Matt Johnson

One thing I haven’t done very well on this blog is talk about systems and the language of systems. This is important because it provides a common language for those who come from different backgrounds and political affiliations. It is no secret that there is a political divide in this country and it has existed for sometime now.

Liberals view the world one way and conservatives view the world another way. This in turn influences policy decisions and applications. But systems are neither liberal or conservative. Systems do not care if you like Star Wars or if you like Star Trek (you’re writer likes both). Systems do not care if you like chocolate ice cream or vanilla ice cream. The point is that systems have no persona and no agenda. Systems are self-differentiating, complex entities. And very few people understand systems in general.

Why is a common language important? It’s important because it helps to clarify what is meant by “system,” “structure,” and “environment.” We often hear terms like “systemic oppression,” “systemic racism,” and “the patriarchy,” which is another way of saying, “It’s the system.” These terms, when used and maybe for the best of intentions, really just muddy the waters. There is no corollary or definition behind them. They can mean anything. They are ambiguous.

But it makes sense that the current systems language in everyday use is ambiguous. This is because everyday citizens have been forced to adapt and improve in their language. They see something and it’s complex. How does one explain something that seems to possess an absurd amount of variables (or things going on)? So people have to improvise. They have to make sense of it somehow.

Another reason why systems language is ambiguous is because the scientific version of it just doesn’t exist, at least not at the level of physics, chemistry, or biology. Those sciences have been around for so long that the lexicon of those sciences has had time to migrate out to the populace. For example, people use infinity, quantum, calculus, derivatives, atoms, electrons, planets, comets, black holes, gravity, psychoanalysis, and the list goes on and on. These things make at least some sense because there have been scientific practitioners to help aid in the dissemination and understanding of such scientific language, for instance, Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson. But systems science has not had this relationship with the general public, nor has it had its Michio Kaku or Bill Nye.

The science of systems is young. It’s origins can be traced back to Ludwig Von Bertalanffy and his book General Systems Theory (see the Mark Twain page for the link) in the middle of the 20th century. Compared to physics and mathematics, this is an extremely young science. But that’s one of the reasons why this blog exists.

It’s here to provide corollary (a proposition established from truth) and definition to the conversation of systems science. It’s here to explain what a system is and what it does. It’s here to explain the difference between what a system is, what a structure is, and what an environment is. And it’s here to explain why the vast majority of systems discussed on Urban Dynamics are probabilistic systems and not causal. It’s here to provide access to an otherwise esoteric field of science.

I will do my best to make sense of these ideas I have shared with you. But it will take time for these ideas to make sense. and I won’t promise that it will happen over night. Habits will need to be broken and some knowledge will need to be accumulated on the part of the reader. But in the end, it will payoff because I will have provided you with a new way to look at the world and a language to describe it. 





The Systems Scientist

Original publication date: April 2015

My name is Matt Johnson and I am an undergraduate of Systems Science at Iowa State University. My degree program is housed in the department of Interdisciplinary Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Although my degree program is systems science, my focus and interests reside in the sub-discipline urban dynamics, which was first proposed by Jay W. Forrester in his book Urban Dynamics.

You may be asking, “What is a systems scientist?” Systems scientists are those scientists who are interested in systems and who apply the scientific method to systems. For example, systems scientists are interested in biological systems, political systems, economic systems, social systems, and the combination of such systems, just to name a few. My discipline of urban dynamics incorporates economic, political, social (cultural), and technological systems, although I have not incorporated technological systems into my abstract modeling yet.

My field, Systems science, is a sub-field of Ludwin Von Bertalanffy’s General Systems Theory (GST), which emerged out of Biology about 6 decades ago. Systems science utilizes stochastic and chaotic applications of mathematics to model different types of systems and analyze their behavior. Systems scientists also use knowledge derived from economics, anthropology, psychology, and/or sociology (for social systems), and philosophy to understand and think about the structures and dynamics of systems. In short, systems science is an interdisciplinary field with a lot of potential, and it will drastically change the self-perspective of humanity and increase humanity’s self-actualization as more and more systems scientists are born and move out to the public forum and industry, and systems science becomes a part of the human consciousness.

My field is a young field and currently there are less than five systems science programs in all of north America. These programs are graduate level programs. No undergraduate programs exist. So how am I an undergraduate of systems science? Good question.

I was a relatively new mathematics student at Minneapolis Community and Technical College in Minneapolis, Minnesota during the unfortunate death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman. This event followed by other similar events would eventually lead me from mathematics into something a bit different. I loved mathematics and I appreciated the field and the many wonderful mathematicians (and statisticians) that I had met throughout my academic career, but I wanted something a bit different; something a bit unusual and new; and something that would help me to address and articulate scientifically some of the perceived, or observed perceptions if you prefer, discrepancies in the United States system.

One day, an acquaintance gave me a book written by Peter Senge, systems thinker, called The Fifth Discipline. Soon after that, I found and read Derek Cabrera’s dissertation Systems Thinking (If you are familiar with Derek Cabrera and his DSRP theory, then you will see much of the DSRP influence in my writings.). While this was happening, another acquaitance provided me with information explaining how I could create my own program through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  I jumped at the opportunity and with the help and guidance of George E. Mobus of the University of Washington, Tacoma, Wayne Wakeland of Portland State University, and Elanor Taylor, Betsy Hoffman, and Wolfgang Kliemann of Iowa State Univeristy, my undergraduate program was born.

Because my program is new and unique, it acts similar to that of a graduate program. Thus, I work with a distinguished group of thinkers and professionals. This group is called the Faculty Review Board. These are my board members:

  • Dr. Wolfgang Kliemann, Vice President of Research, professor of mathematics
  • Dr. Elizabeth “Betsy” Hoffman, professor of economics
  • Dr. Elanor Taylor, assistant professor of philosophy
  • Dr. Chaoqun Lu, assistant professor of ecology

My program incorporates a substantial amount of mathematics (especially dynamical forms of mathematics), philosophy, and economics. For example, some of the program courses include differential equations, chaos theory, probability theory, set theory, game theory, philosophy of science, metaphysics, and a designed, independent systems science thesis course. Moreover, following in the foot steps of many of the systems scientist who came before me, I will be incorporating macroecology and its dynamical systems principles into my program and modeling . Finally, my program includes an undergraduate thesis which is where my interests in urban dynamics resides. But beyond all of these program necessities, my program incorporates quite a bit of outside, independent reading. Many of those books can be found on the Readings page on this website.

My main objective, besides graduate school, which will happen, is to incorporate and merge the social and empirical sciences as a systems scientist while weaving social justice issues and challenges, along with environmental considerations and efficacy, into a new philosophical and scientific paradigm, or zeitgeist if you prefer, for the urban environment. But I also recognize that I follow in the footsteps of systems scientists such as Ludwig Von Bertalanffy, Niklas Luhmann, Jay W. Forrester, Donella Meadows, Yaneer Bar-Yam, George E. Mobus, Wayne Wakeland, Peter Senge, Derek Cabrera, Michael Strevens and all of the other systems scientists, thinkers, and philosophers who have come before me.

At the moment, I have two semesters left as an undergraduate at Iowa State University. If you have any questions or comments concerning my program or field of interest, please contact me at mrj@iastate.edu.

Understanding Complex Systems: A Neat Introduction

Complex systems are all around us. They are astronomical, for example our solar system which is composed of a parent star, eight planets with their respective moons, several dwarf planets, and thousands of other astronomical objects such as asteroids and comets.

Complex systems are also ecological. As a species, we emerged and evolved in a wide arrange of ecological systems; for example, east Africa, Eurasia, Asia, Australia, and Europe. Today, we, much of the planets human population, live in artificially constructed complex systems called cities; hence, the scientific interests of yours truly. But this video explains complex systems from the perspective of ecological systems and begins the discussion with this interesting question

Have you ever wondered how thousands of birds move in amazing patterns [of flight]?

As Ilana Shoenfeld, the narrator, illustrates in this neat and easy to understand video, complex systems are composed of interactions between system agents (think of a crowded dance floor and the dancers interacting with each other) and from these interactions, a pattern of behavior emerges in the system. This is definitely a different way of looking at the world. Enjoy the video!