Nine Meditations on Complexity
Complexity not as a mathematical concept, but as an almost intuitive sense of both complication and interconnectedness. Both are necessary components of a truly complex system or situation.
- Complicated systems have many parts, or take many steps, or have many rules; complex systems are complicated systems connected to and interdependent with other systems (likely also complex).
- There are rarely simple resolutions to complex (complicated+interconnected) problems; because a resolution must take into account the effects of changing a complex situation on the connected systems, the resolution will of necessity be at least as complex as the problem.
- The associated complexity of a seemingly simple resolution generally shows up in unintended or unexpected consequences; complicated interconnections cannot be cut without repercussions.
- For this reason, over time, simple solutions tend to increase complexity.
- Complication can be the perverse result of simple interactions, but complexity is rarely so; because complex situations are also complicated, the two can be easily confused.
- In situations where "complexity itself" is asserted to be the problem, the actual crisis is often around complication; the trick is to devise ways to reduce the complication without damaging the interconnections.
- Unfortunately, that's not simple; in many cases, it may not be possible.
- The only way to reduce and resolve the complexity of a given situation is to reduce its level of interconnection with other systems; doing so, however, can undermine the value or power of the given system, and will alter the systems to which it was once connected.
- In other words, the opposite of "complex" is not "simple," the opposite of "complex" is "isolated."
[Just thinking about how the world works as I prepare for another intercontinental journey.]