As recent converts to the virtues of systems thinking, we do not have vast tracts of in-depth knowledge about the discipline. But in a recent paper that we wrote for our University of Stellenbosch course in Futures Studies – we sited an article from world-renown systems expert Prof Jay W. Forrester.

Sadly Prof Forrester died this week at the age of 98.

System dynamics, he once wrote, “uses computer simulation to take the knowledge we already have about details in the world around us and to show why our social and physical systems behave the way they do.”

In the seven decades he was at M.I.T., Professor Forrester retained an engineer’s curiosity about how things work, and occasionally voiced dismay that his students were not always so inclined.

He recalled in 2011 that he once asked students in an engineering class if they understood how the feedback mechanism in a toilet’s water tank maintained the water level.

“I asked them, ‘How many of you have ever taken the lid off a toilet tank to see how it works?’” he recalled. “None of them had. How do you get to M.I.T. without having ever looked inside a toilet tank?”

So as a reminder of the great mind that the world has now lost, here is a full lecture by Forrester on the applications of systems dynamics for your viewing pleasure.