Most attempts to distinguish between a system and a SoS fall into a recursive, almost fractal-esque jumble of un-clarity. For example, is an aircraft a system that is part of a larger SoS (which includes air traffic control, radar sites, communications links, etc), or is the aircraft itself a SoS, made up of the life support system, navigation system, weapon system (if it's a military jet)? Depends on your perspective, right? And if both terms can be applied to the same object, we might ask what the terms really mean.
It seems to me that we could simply describe any given SoS as a system. This lack of clarity in distinguishing between the two labels led me to suspect that SoS don't really exist in a meaningful way. However, after talking with a new BFF from Auburn University, now I'm thinking that SoS do exist, but discrete systems don't (thus the paradox).
Clearly the intent of the term SoS is to highlight the interrelated nature of technology systems. We use that term to remind ourselves that no system is an island. This awareness helps shape our decisions about investments, modifications, operations, etc. And along with the idea that no system is an island, I'm coming to suspect that no system is a system. It's all part of a bigger system of systems.
Or maybe my original opinion was right, and it would be simpler to just use the word "system." Thoughts?