All you could ever want to know about why complexity is THE big deal


This video by David Korowicz [Complexity, Economy, Civilisation & Collapse] will answer the questions you may not have even thought to ask yourself (or others). His holistic perspective, born out of inter-disciplinary thinking tells you all you need to know about complexity, the folly of a “silo mentality” and the power of interdependence.

DK provides some superb illustrations including something as, apparently, simple as buying a loaf. At the other end of the scale he deals (briefly) with Thermodynamics and the “unseen” complexity of the Global Supply Chain driven by supply and demand. Complexity is the link. Read more of this post

Information Overload, procrastination & "complexity paralysis"


As a follow-up to recent articles (see below) I thought it worth sharing this blog which, deals more with the sheer volume of information, rather than the IMPACT upon our ability to function effectively in home or work environments.

It doesn’t take too much thought to envisage the toll it takes when so much of the new “streaming” information requires to be, rapidly, deciphered, understood, interpreted and applied to enable you, your colleagues or your organisation to perform whatever task(s) you were undertaking before the tsunami of – distracting or confusing – new information struck!:

The problem is that people don’t have tools to filter information down to the most useful bits with minimal effort. The only choices we have right now are to take everything through our various media sources or shut ourselves off from potential opportunities. Of course that’s a false choice because when we let ourselves be inundated by information we miss things anyway–time is the ultimate arbiter of attention.

via Infographic: Is Information Overload Over-Hyped? | Fast Company.

Update: …More lessons from nature


COMMENTS (refer to original item for more):

After a random event like a forest fire some life remains in the scorched earth. However, apart from lost structure as an outcome [criticality] any remaining “structure” will have been starved of nourishment during the fire [ becoming fragile]. Survivors were those , often with the most robust root system, best equipped to survive, repair and stabilise. Then to renew and increase the inter-connections that are the framework and structure [complexity] that defines a complex dynamic system.

As the effectiveness of the interdependencies grows so does the complexity, diversity, robustness, chances of survival and…the ability to withstand [uncertainty] most events that beset a forest!!!

Dynamic systems are inherently complex and robust with sustainability “built in”. Exo/endo events that affect the stability, functionality, interdependencies, robustness are first reflected in the complexity of the system…..

I can’t, wouldn’t, claim credit for this extremely interesting extract from a really well informed blog by Ashwin Parameswaran – the link to the item is below and, if you like this I would recommend a visit. In view of the continuing displays of utter dis-engagement from the real world – where citizens dwell – by [the bankers’ and Corporations’ pawns] those we refer to as “Political Leaders”, I really wanted to get this out there for some thought … Read More

via A heid full of mince but at least it’s my mince!

The Resilience Stability Trade-off: More lessons from Nature (Chancellor take note!)


I can’t, wouldn’t, claim credit for this extremely interesting extract from a really well informed blog by Ashwin Parameswaran – the link to the item is below and, if you like this I would recommend a visit.

In view of the continuing displays of utter dis-engagement from the real world – where citizens dwell – by [the bankers’ and Corporations’ pawns] those we refer to as “Political Leaders”, I really wanted to get this out there for some thought. Surely if a Government “micro manages” a budget, to achieve short term results – which is entirely in keeping with the culture that got us all into this mess – without fully considering social costs they are merely deferring the inevitable and extremely unlikely to achieve their goals at macro level!? The national economy is, in itself, a Complex Adaptive System (CAS) and a node/hub within the global CAS so, unless a holistic view is taken, a sustainable progressive strategy is unlikely.

But please don’t linger too long on my own comments as the full article is worth reading from economic, ecological and social perspectives. Complexity is the thread.

Mancur Olson. In his final work “Power and Prosperity”, Olson notes: “subsidizing industries, firms and localities that lose money…at the expense of those that make money…is typically disastrous for the efficiency and dynamism of the economy, in a way that transfers unnecessarily to poor individuals…A society that does not shift resources from the losing activities to those that generate a social surplus is irrational, since it is throwing away useful resources in a way that ruins economic performance without the least assurance that it is helping individuals with low incomes. A rational and humane society, then, will confine its distributional transfers to poor and unfortunate individuals.” Olson understood the damage inflicted by rent-seeking not only from a systemic perspective but from a perspective of social justice. The logical consequence of micro-stabilisation is a crony capitalist economy – rents invariably flow to the strong and the result is a sluggish and an inegalitarian economic system, not unlike many developing economies. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not limiting handouts to the poor that defines a free and dynamic economy but limiting rents that flow to the privileged.

via The Resilience Stability Tradeoff: Drawing Analogies between River Flood Management and Macroeconomic Management at Macroeconomic Resilience.

I have taken a final thought on the ecological perspective, or learning “lessons from nature”, from a contribution to a recent discussion on “Power Laws and Accidents” by an eminent mathematician:

Adaptive processes tend to be based on sample stats…and hence tend to seriously under-estimate the dangers when the sample stats tend to significantly under-estimate the true parameters.

Epidemics fit this model. Perhaps more surprisingly, so do forest fires: the patterns of burnt ground versus growth at various stages evolve to provide stability. More trees leads to disaster. Less trees leads to more trees. In between there can be a sustainable forest, with periodic moderate fires. If we make an analogy with finance, then in finance we try to build fire-breaks and then to have as many trees as possible. This can work for a while, but at some point the defenses will be breached, and then one has a wipe-out. It is more sustainable to have a forest with random lightning: if it is frequent enough the forest will never grow to a dangerous condition.

Complexity: it’s complex, real, multi-layered and VERY dangerous


complexity 

Image by J. Star via Flickr

My previous blogs referring to Joseph Tainter’s book, The Collapse of Complex Societies were, again, brought to mind by a recent article, by Prof John Kay, in the Financial Times (Barbarians at the gates of complexity).

The following is an extract from a speech Tainter delivered in 2009. Interestingly the focus of the full version, which can be found here, was Sustainability…another topic close to my heart!

…complexity costs. In any living system, increased complexity (involving differentiation in structure and increasing organization) carries a metabolic cost. In non-human species this is a straightforward matter of additional calories. Among humans the cost is calculated in such currencies as resources, effort, time, or money, or by more subtle matters such as annoyance. While humans find complexity appealing in spheres such as art, music, or architecture, we usually prefer that someone else pay the cost. We are averse to complexity when it unalterably increases the cost of daily life without a clear benefit to the individual or household. Before the development of fossil fuels, increasing the complexity and costliness of a society meant that people worked harder. Read more of this post