RUNAWAY PROCESS 1)2)
An irreversible processs through which a system is forced through an instability threshold.
Such a process implies the swift loss of dynamic stability and may lead either to the destruction of the system (f. ex. growth of a cancer), or to dissipative structuration and emergence of a higher level of complexity.
A runaway results from the action of an uncontrolled positive feedback. J. MILSUM observes:"… upper and lower constraints always exist in real systems which prevent true runaway, and may even mask the positive-loop nature of some systems when operating within these constraints" (1968, p.39).
As recorded by MILSUM, these constraints appear as "floors" and "ceilings" in BOULDING's terminology.
As also noted by MILSUM, stable systems avoid runaways by combining positive and negative loops (in this encyclopedia: compensated feedbacks).
Runaway processes are generally destructive, as for example in a fire. They may also lead to bifurcations, or "catastrophes" in R.THOM's sense, or to a higher level of stability, when triggering dissipative structuration, as viewed by PRIGOGINE's thermodynamics.
The many times used metaphor about "snowball effects" corresponds to runaway processes.
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To cite this page, please use the following information:
Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]
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