What’s the purpose of my body?

I had never heard of systems thinker Russell Ackoff, until I recently watched this video, in which he delightfully explains what a system is:

He teaches us that a system as a whole has a property that no part of the system has. A car can take you from A to B, but a wheel can’t do that. Neither can the engine, the windshield or the seat.

The human body is also system. One of it’s properties is life, but no part of the body has this property. I live, but none of my parts live. I can write but my hand can’t. According to Ackoff, that’s easy to demonstrate:

“Cut it off, put it on the table and watch what it does.”

I learned from another systems thinker, Donella Meadows, in her book Thinking in Systems, that one of the main things that influences a system is its purpose. The key property of a car — to transport people and things — is also it’s purpose. It’s why cars are built and sold.

So now I’m wondering: if the body is a system, what is its purpose? Is it also it’s key property: to live? Is it to survive? Or to procreate?

Or is the purpose of the human body defined by that other property this system has? Which is: to think about itself and its environment and then choose what it wants to do.

In other words, the purpose of the human body is to choose its own purpose.

If only I knew a systems thinker who could tell me what my body’s purpose is.



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