i was pretty intrigued by loopy and played with it a few times but i think the part where i was less sure about it was that it was too easy to game a feedback loop to exhibit the behavior i wanted. I kept thinking about part 2 of the all watched over by machines of loving grace and the sort of tragic fallacy of using systems thinking to formalize what end up being complex and overtly human interactions that don’t behave in easy-to-model ways.
namely, i mean, check this part of the wikipedia synopsis (linked above)
At the time, there was a general belief in the stability of natural systems. However, cracks started to appear when a study was made of the predator-prey relationship of wolf and elks. It was found that wild population swings had occurred over centuries. Other studies then found huge variations, and a significant lack of homeostasis in natural systems. George Van Dyne then tried to build a computer model to try to simulate a complete ecosystem based on extensive real-world data, to show how the stability of natural systems actually worked. To his surprise, the computer model did not stabilize like the Odums’ electrical model had. The reason for this lack of stabilization was that he had used extensive data which more accurately reflected reality, whereas the Odums and other ecologists had “ruthlessly simplified nature.” The scientific idea had thus been shown to fail, but the popular idea remained in currency, and even grew as it apparently offered the possibility of a new egalitarian world order.
qv, an image from the postmortem:
i think in part what felt unsatisfying is that some of these feedback loops don’t actually respond linearly. like, i think about how, in practice i react to my phone showing me an arbitrary “sign in to icloud” prompt. the first time i see it and i’m like wtf is this nonsense and subsequent times i’m still horrified but just a little less. and maybe my fall-off is linear or maybe it’s logarithmic or maybe one day i just do it to show my kid a video we paid for and it’s like a unit delta for me not caring anymore. how do you model that? do you? and if so, what’s the point other than the more trivial “people hate being pesterd until you eventually break their will.” do you need a fancy diagram for that? and i mean, is my experience really relevant or indicative of the larger water torture of being forced to constantly reauthorize my device?
that said, the tool itself is quite nice (even if the ui is a bit opaque at times) but i sort of worry that the takeaway from people misrepresents the nuance, complexity and overall limitations of systems in general. like, how do you even calibrate a loopy diagram? how do you know that you’ve set the outputs from your root nodes correctly? and if so, why is it that the world often behaves counter to what you observe?
i think that on the whole, it’s a solid entry, but, like an episode of serial, “raises more questions than it answers”