Sunday, October 26, 2008

Complexity (Again)

If you look around the world, it isn't simple. It's not only complex, it's messy. I've said from the beginning that there aren't easy answers.

Life is complex. Simple living is not the same as over simplification. As simple systems evolve and coevolve they form complex systems. There is a richness in complexity and nature, for all its simplicity, glories in complexity. If we are going to create a society that is anything other than stark and uniform, it is going to have to be complex.

Complexity isn't a good thing or a bad thing, it just is. As such we need to find a way of dealing with it and enjoying it. We need to be able to embrace the world in its many facets and complicated riches.

Complexity theory (see my post of 7/16/08) is one way to embrace the chaos. Complexity theory talks about 'Complex Adaptive Systems'. It's system theory brought into the twenty-first century.

Complexity tends to organize itself. If you look you can see systems everywhere. Systems adapt, cope, develop, and emerge. A quote that sticks in my mind is "You can't manage a system, a system manages a system." Embracing complexity doesn't mean we control it. As a person I was speaking to recently put it: "You can influence systems, you can't control them."

Some of these systems are rather destructive. While it is necessary to oppose the destructive aspects, it's not clear that we can destroy these systems. Buckminister Fuller said, "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete". Or as the IWW put it, "we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old."

Thus we need to create new systems. The systems we create will be simple (at first). If they work, they will become complex and out of our control. We need to embrace what works and replace what doesn't. And learn to ride on the waves of complexity.

Quote of the day: "Abandon the urge to simplify everything, to look for formulas and easy answers, and to begin to think multidimensionally, to glory in the mystery and paradoxes of life, not to be dismayed by the multitude of causes and consequences that are inherent in each experience -- to appreciate the fact that life is complex." - M. Scott Peck
Word (or phrase) of the day: Anarchist Law
Hero(es) of the day: Henry David Thoreau

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