A Systems Approach to the 2014 Midterm Elections: Voting to Achieve Systemwide Change


MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar SeriesNicholas A. Ashford, Ph.D.

Nicholas A. Ashford, Ph.D., J.D. Professor of Technology and Policy, MIT Director, MIT Technology and Law Program

Date: October 20, 2014

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About the Presentation

Elections matter—especially the 2014 midterms. The challenges are especially acute this year because:

  • Gridlock, corruption, and diversionary tactics have compromised sound legislative and programmatic changes, as well as an independent judiciary; and
  • Media and self-serving politicians are sidestepping the debates we need to have around major issues.

Sustainable progress requires tackling a complex set of challenges that, if properly considered and addressed with the rigor of systems thinking, can help the United States reach a new level of inclusion and opportunity for all. This webinar will help explain how our elected officials can do better.

Professor Nicholas A. Ashford will discuss the most important barrier to making the transformation to a more sustainable financial and industrial system—lock-in or path dependency due to:

  • failure to envision, design, and implement policies that achieve co-optimization—i.e. mutually reinforcing, societal goals for economic welfare, environmental quality, and employment/earning capacity; and
  • entrenched economic and political interests that gain from the present system and current trends.

Ashford will describe a systems-based approach to facilitating technological and institutional changes while “opening up the participatory and political space” to enable new voices to contribute to solutions.

Insights from the book Ashford coauthored with Ralph Hall, Technology, Globalization, and Sustainable Development: Transforming the Industrial State (2011, Yale University Press), will inform the presentation.

About the Speaker

Nicholas A. Ashford is a professor of technology and policy at MIT and director of MIT’s Technology and Law Program. He holds both a Ph.D. in chemistry and a law degree from the University of Chicago, where he also received graduate education in economics. At MIT, he teaches courses jointly listed with the Engineering Systems Division (ESD)/Engineering, the Sloan School, and Urban Studies. He has also supervised graduate theses in the Technology and Policy Program, ESD, SDM, and the Master of Science in Management Studies. He has coauthored seven books and several hundred articles in peer-reviewed journals and law reviews.

About the Series

The MIT System Design and Management Program Systems Thinking Webinar Series features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges.