In their paper “Combining Systems Dynamics and Ethics: Towards More Science?” Erik Pruyt and Jan Kwakkel argue that ethics ought to play a larger role in systems dynamics and vice versa (2007). Including ethics, they contend, will add sensitivity to current systems models as well as provide guidance on how to achieve best outcomes; with respect to both efficiency and flourishing (Pruyt & Kwakkel, 2007).
At first blush, such a cross pollination promises to add much needed depth of analysis to systems modeling and a higher degree of precision in ethical analyses. Not surprisingly, however, achieving such outcomes is more complex than it initially appears. Indeed, the quest for additional precision in ethical analysis is not a new one to philosophers and ethicists. The problem remains, in many ways, intractable.
In Part I of this paper, the authors expand on Pruyt and Kwakkel’s thesis by examining specific insights and tools that can and should be incorporated into systems dynamics modeling. Emphasis will be placed on the mechanics of this inclusion and the resultant implications. Part II, then, focuses on how systems dynamics tools like causal loop modeling and behavior-over-time graphs can be incorporated into ethical analyses in a non-arbitrary manner. Finally, in Part III of the paper, the authors briefly discuss the ramifications of Parts I and II for engineering education; both among students and practicing engineers.
The authors argue that both directions of the cross pollination have merit (especially the inclusion of ethical considerations in systems dynamics modeling) and ought to be developed further.