Not for simpletons – complexity
Book review – this is not. Over the last 9 months. I’ve been studying cognitive and conative aspects of human nature, via The Times online forums. The Times charges something like £27/month for access to the The Times (obviously). Under a majority of the their articles is an attached forum, where people can comment. What’s the book got to do with it? The stuff in the book is not in the thinking of people who respond. Just hang on a sec – I do NOT expect everybody to have read this book.
What I’m talking about is the processes of thinking and analysis of complex phenomena. Well, I’m talking about COVID-19 and how masters of the UK and their advisers have made a right mess of the country. They and the people who are brainwashed by them – the people in the forums – think in a very narrow and linear way. The book is about ‘complexity‘ and that means it requires a fair degree of non-linearity of thinking. I touched on non-linearity before. Hold on – I’m not saying that you or other people have to read this book to learn about complexity and non-linearity. There are tons of other similar good books out there.
What is complexity?
Some will have dived onto Google already. The Wikipedia definition is pretty good, “Complexity characterises the behaviour of a system or model whose components interact in multiple ways and follow local rules, meaning there is no reasonable higher instruction to define the various possible interactions.” But I’m not so satisfied, though I know that no definition of something as complex as complexity will cover everything. I’ll avoid basic dictionary definitions which say something like ‘It’s a complicated thing.‘
- Situations where some of the variables (or factors) are not known.
- The variables that are known are erratic and interact with each other in a chaotic non-linear way.
- Some of the known variables cannot be measured or are difficult to measure.
- Known and unknown variables or factors may be influenced by external other systems – but it is extremely difficult to work out the extent of those influences.
Examples of complex situations
- Mental disorders – we can chunk variables into biological, psychological and social. But we can’t really know which bunch of brain cells might react badly to psychological stress triggered by social factors. We can’t just punch variables into a computer and go, ‘Yeah – Mr X is gonna try to kill somebody in 3 months time because of A, B and C variables.‘ If you thought that mental health professionals can do that, you are very very dim!
- Hurricanes, tornadoes or similar things. Weather forecasters have a difficult time working out when a small storm may grow into a hurricane. Then they have real problems working out the path of the hurricane or when it might die out. The reason for those difficulties are based on complexity as I outlined in the 4 points above.
- Financial systems – these are affected by numerous variables in international trade, which are in turn affected by political issues. An itty bitty virus came along and threw the world’s financial systems into a right mess. The loss of GDP in the pandemic crash was greater than that of both world wars put together. Most people don’t know that. Did the COVID virus infect computers? Of course it didn’t. What it did was upset employment, movement of people, travel, shipping, supply demand chains – and then caused reckless creation of money out of thin air. Money printing in itself – exceeding anything ever seen before in history. It added a new set of instabilities (unless you believe junk printed in mainstream media). The point is that no one really knew exactly what the balance was across the interacting dynamic variables.
- Others are health services, social care systems, the welfare system and so on. Do some reading.
Forum responses have become predictable. Ever so often someone would come along and seek an explanation. I’d give it to them as I see it. Then I get the ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.. you’re confusing yourself and me!‘. At this point someone reading this might infer (and turn into fact) that I’ve pulled a load of jargon on people. Is and inference a fact? Don’t let me start up on that one.
So after I explain some more I’d get stuff like ‘That makes no sense to me‘. I’d explain some more but it’s useless. Why? How? It’s this simple – people don’t like to read what’s written (probably for 3 to 5 mins) and then think. How do I know that? I don’t know it. I infer it because people just pluck meaning out of thin air and ascribe that meaning to me. But I’m like, “I did not say that“. It makes no difference. I came to conclude that it’s pretty pointless discussing complex issues with simpletons. They believe there is always a simple to solution to every complex/complicated situation. That’s what their parents and teachers told them and they carry it through life like the gospel itself. Just to be clear, I’m not saying that there are no simple solutions to some complex situations.
In the pandemic period, ‘everybody’ wanted a solution to COVID. When vaccines came out and lockdowns were lifted, people punched the air! The vaccine was a ‘simple solution’, to them. But at September 2021, we’re seeing that vaccines are not the simple solution. How? Because the virus is mutating into variants such as Delta, in some very ‘clever’ ways. Even for those who are vaccinated, Delta will hide and then pop out in massive numbers. It’s not doing that to kill the human host, though a relatively small percentage of people will die. It’s doing it so that the overconfident host can spread it around.
Often times in complex situations there is no one solution. Instead we may have part of the solution, or several things that contribute to the eventual solution.
The important issue is for decision-makers to know when a situation is complex and chaotic. You might think with all the government advisers around, that your leaders would be well informed. They may well be, but they’re not used to making difficult decisions in complex chaotic situations. Hence, lockdowns were usually missing the mark by about 3 to 4 months. If you swing at a fast moving cricket ball with a bat and you miss, you’re gonna get those stumps taken out! In fact cricket is a pretty complex game but most people don’t know that.
Right that’s it for today.