The Emergence of Chaos, Complexity, Complication and Order

August 27, 2010

I think Complexity Theory is great and is certainly a more relevant approach than how people have been treating human and dynamic systems, but I also think there is a confusion somewhere. The confusion I think exists is that complexity is in the system, where I would say complexity is in the mind.

I think some people may learn about complexity and then say, “oh ok, so human systems are complex, so therefore we should think, believe, and act in a different way in regards to them”, while on the other side which I am on might say, “oh ok, so because humans think, believe, and act from the inside out, and no human can think, believe, or act for another, complexity emerges from an inherently uncertain and impermanent space”.

In my view when two or more people share a state of accepted uncertainty and contemplation of impermanence, chaos and complexity can emerge, almost appearing as if it is something intrinsic and innate in what they are experiencing, rather than their shared state of mind. And the similar thing happens in regards to complication and order arising from a shared state of assumed certainties and contemplated permanences, leading people to say things like “the laws of nature..” thinking that the laws exist in nature, rather than in their heads. Its more than just choice of language, it is a way of thought.

The reason I think is a valid inquiry and position is because things which everyone agreed were ordered 100 years ago somehow are now treated as being complex, while all along nothing actually changed in the system… only in our states of mind.

To play off a post Snowden had recently, I would almost say that “Complexity is the surface manifestation of uncertainty at work.” and would probably add to that “and impermanence at work.” But this is only relevant to an interpretant view, not an objective view… which is fine with me because I take a more solipsistic approach anyways.

In many ways I would argue that it is actually being insane, irrational, and illogical that actually allows us to get through the day… being able to cope with nature as well as communication.

There is no logical and rational reason why we shouldn’t check a sidewalk to make sure we aren’t going to fall through it when we step onto it… only something based on enpatternation and assumption and permanence and such from past experience. And in regards to language, many of us use words in the present assume certainty of meaning based on the past and then contemplating its permanence into the present and future as we pass on to others.

I think science, math, and logic, and even language places too much emphasis on trying to solidify the past too much into maintaining and exploiting it in the present in regards to a specific future state.

While artists live in the same world and do practically the same thing, they have a different appreciation or honor and respect without expectation almost… this is what allows painting, or poetry, or jazz improv, or things like that to be so dynamic but yet manageable, but yet not as in they are “managing” it in any way.

It is dangerous to assume and contemplate that your company, your job, your client, your contract, your relationships, your country, your money persists from day to day, as well as assuming and contemplating that all those things do not actually exist in the present until you bring them forth, at which they immediately become the past once more. But yet, this is what allows us to still think, believe, and act as though they do… giving us the illusion of security… even the illusion of chaos, complexity, complication, and order as if disordered isn’t the only true thing that exists in the present.

Every human can only communicate to another human using signs (language, body language, visuals, sounds, touch, etc…), so I would seriously challenge everyone to focus on and be aware of that if anything you do involves communication, because only tomorrow will tell us what the language we used today meant, even if the language we choose to use today was chosen because of yesterday, or in regards to a specific future.

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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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