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The Twenty Subsystems

To quote the book "Science For All Americans" by the American Association for the Advancement of Science:
Any collection of things that have some influence on one another can be thought of as a system. [...] Thinking of a collection of things as a system draws our attention to what needs to be included among the parts to make sense of it, to how its parts interact with one another, and to how the system as a whole relates to other systems. Thinking in terms of systems implies that each part is fully understandable only in relation to the rest of the system.


Any part of a system may itself be considered as a system - a subsystem - with its own internal parts and interactions. [...] Similarly, any system is likely to be part of a larger system that it influences and that influences it.
There are eight "levels of organization" addressed within Living Systems Theory. They are nested inside of one another, from the microscopically small to the macrocosmically large:

1. Cells
2. Organs
3. Organisms
4. Groups
5. Organizations
6. Communities
7. Societies
8. Supranational Systems

Each of these is a "living system", overlapping and influencing each other in various ways. Living Systems Theory catalogs these interactions into twenty "subsystems"...

Subsystems Which Process Material-Energy

Input Stage

Ingestor: brings material-energy into the system

Throughput Stage

Distributor: distributes material-energy for use throughout the system

Converter: converts material-energy into suitable form for use by the system

Producer: synthesizes material-energy for use within the system

M-E Storage: stores material-energy used by the system

Motor: handles mobility of various parts of the system

Supporter: provides physical support to the system

Output Stage

Extruder: handles material-energy discharged by the system

Subsystems Which Process Information

Input Stage

Input Transducer: brings information into the system

Throughput Stage

Internal Transducer: recieves and converts information brought into the system

Channel & Net: distributes information throughout the system

Decoder: prepares information for use by the system

Timer: maintains the appropriate spatial/temporal relationships

Associator: maintains appropriate relationships between information sources

Memory: stores information for system use

Decider: makes decisions about various system operations

Encoder: converts information to needed usable form

Output Stage

Transducer: handles information output of system

Subsystems Which Process Material-Energy & Information

Throughput Stage

Reproducer: carries on reproductive function

Function Boundary: protects system from outside influences

Pathological Situations

There are eight processes that can be damaging or fatal to a living system:

1. Lacks of matter or energy inputs
2. Excesses of mater or energy inputs
3. Inputs of inappropriate forms of matter or energy
4. Lack of information inputs
5. Excesses of information inputs
6. Inputs of maladaptive information in the template (e.g.: "genetic damage")
7. Abnormalities in internal matter or energy processes
8. Abnormalities in internal information processes


"The Living Systems Theory of James Grier Miller" by Elaine Parent

"The Appropriateness of Using The Living Systems Theory as a Diagnostic Tool" by Winchell Chung