Anna Kaplan

Mar 7, 2021

3 min read

Systems Thinking: Tools

Note: this is a living article, published as a draft, and hopefully to be worked on some more. Consider it part of my digital garden.

Illustration by Anna Kaplan

One night I was trying to find a movie on the Roku and was spending time jumping from app to app. A faster way to do this, I thought, would be if Roku built a central search. All my signed-in apps could be tuned into this search and I would easily be able to find my content regardless of the platform it was going to play on.

My pal, who was hanging out with me that night, told me a little software tale. Someone had had a grand idea, to put all your apps in one place on your computer. The app that was shipped is called Shift. Full disclaimer, I’ve never used this app. My friend then said something funny to me. He mentioned that when all was said and done, the app had basically created a duplicate OS of sorts. His point of view is that the app was redundant, giving you the same functionality as what your out-of-the-box computer can provide.


Here I’ve “visualized” a cybernetic loop of sorts explaining the tool building system via software. Extremely simplified, lacking a lot.

Creation of human-readable computer programing languages →
<— Increase visibility and education of software development → (also a positive feedback loop to the creation of human-readable computer languages) →
Increase apps and tools output (which I guess included computer languages) → diversification of tools


Outside of this whole cybernetic system is a parallel or more abstracted system that connects nevertheless into this one. And that parallel system is our self-awareness of the larger function of tool creation (which is not a pure function or without side effect, because like I said before this parallel system is connecting with our tool creation system).

For example, this essay is an exploration of my own self-awareness of the tool creation system that comes about via software. This means, looking at the tool creation system from above, the side, underneath, or even within but with a constant understanding that it is a larger system. The investigation includes trying to tease out the relationships and get at the dynamism of the nodes and edges that make up tool creation. For example looking at how people create or interact with tools, the communities, and practices that form around the tools, historical perspectives, futurist perspectives, these are all just a few things.

A tangent here: To me, it seems like there are infinite routes of investigation and I think it feels that way because we are limited to knowledge and understanding as humans. As individuals and as communities we have a limit of time and space so we never truly fully understand our systems. Additionally, if we understood less or we understood more, our systems are reactive and dynamic and would change with that understanding.

Questions (and some answers)

  1. What do we get as consumers from indie tool creators?

2. What do we get as consumers from big corp tool creators?
- big corp tool creators build an expected standard out of collective humans becoming used to a way of doing things in order to work together, so a strong reinforcer.

3. Do we have a diversification of tools or do we have copy cats? I think we have a little bit of both.
- copycats can be reinforcers as well, and diversions can be disruptors with a varying size of influence.

4. Differences and similarities. Are we tool consumers or tool creators?

5. How to think of tools in relation to ourselves?
- cyborgs, second brains, iron man? etc..