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The "layer" model of a system is useful and adds insight. It helps by isolating critical features from those aspects of the whole that don't matter from a particular perspective. Take a computer (please!). There's the physical hardware, with specific chips and voltages and heat sinks, important for the engineer building it. There's the logical configuration, functional units that can be swapped out and replaced with their equivalents even if the new components have a completely different internal structure. As long as the substitute meets the specs, all is well; that's how an entire rack full of vacuum tubes and relays can be replaced by a single chip. Then there's the software that runs on the machine, which itself has layers ranging from the machine-language instructions being executed moment-by-moment, to the sequence of functions and choices that the program executes, to the high-level description of the problem being solved.

Social systems have layers too. On a component basis, we have individuals, families, neighborhoods, towns, counties, states, and nations. In the monetary sphere, we have transactions, property, owners, businesses, and major sectors of the economy. There are countless other layers in the doing of art and science, in the gathering and delivery of information, and in the functioning of social institutions such as religions, schools, etc. Each layer has interfaces to higher and lower layers; each is to some degree insulated from its neighbors.

What's the top layer of society? Perhaps it's the shared concept of justice --- fairness, honesty, rights, ....?

Sunday, January 09, 2000 at 07:19:34 (EST) = Datetag20000109

TopicSociety - TopicJustice

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