Arizona: Preliminary statement

November 7, 2010

So, back in the UK for a brief sojourn and I am crossing the atlantic again, this time to Phoenix to speak at and participate in a Highlands Forum session. Accommodation and event courtesy of the Office of the Secretary of Defense with the subject of complexity with a design theme. Several heavy weights at the session including JSB who I haven’t seen for a bit and various academics and others from Santa Fe and elsewhere. The Cynefin framework is front and centre which is gratifying, but its also going to be a pleasure to be in a small group albeit challenging.   

I made it in the end after a delayed connection in Dallas and got there in time for the Sunday evening session. A general introduction to the two days and a chance for those of us who are presenting to introduce controversial ideas for people to sleep on (in my case as soon as I could get away, a seven hour time difference and twenty fours of travel were taking their toll). Mind you Hertz very kindly gave me an open top car, and I have four days of holiday here in Arizona and New Mexico, so that was a bonus. Travel blogs to follow from Wednesday.

My takeaway was simple: Just as a previous generation confused correlation with causation we are now confusing simulation with prediction. We need to realise that the obsession with purely technology driven solutions to wicked (or as I prefer intractable) problems is dangerous and we need to see technology as augmenting human cognition, triggering extended human sensor networks into states of anticipatory awareness; rather than trying to anticipate the inherently unpredictable.

I’ll blog again tomorrow, within the normal rules of disclosure at these sort of events. I am however anticipating some conflict with modelers and those who place their trust in algorithms to understand language.

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

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