Emerging from complexity

I was indulging myself in reading some old posts here and found a couple relating to muddle and emergence.

I reread my review of Patricia Shaw’s Changing Conversations in Organisations.* Shaw does a great job of challenging the tidyness of business models and well established assumptions about how change happens in organisations.

Then I read this review of Roger Lewin’s book on complexity. I pulled out this quote from the author’s interview with Patricia Churchland:

Nature is not an intelligent engineer… It doesn’t start from scratch each time it wants to build a new system but has to work with what’s already there… the result is a system no human engineer would ever design but it is wonderfully powerful, energy efficient and computationally brilliant… Nervous systems evolved, and that makes it difficult for neurobiologists… to look at the wiring diagram and figure out what’s going on…. [Artificial intelligence researchers] tend to approach the problem within the framework of electrical engineering, and with prejudices about how they think brains should process information, instead of finding out what they do.

As I’m fond of saying, humans are rationalising rather than rational creatures – yet we often try to run organisations as if linearity is the best way to get the best out of us all.

* Funnily enough, this rereading was prompted, as was the post itself, by Matt Moore.

2 thoughts on “Emerging from complexity

  1. Euan Semple

    Yeah I read Matt’s post too. This is kind of why I keep nipping at Andrew’s heels about the whole E 2.0 thing. It is still reinforcing the machine model imho.

  2. Charles

    When the Universe was born, it was at first a pure plasma of electrons. The simplest construct.

    As it cooled, new phenomena emerged. Atomic Nuclei formed. Electrons appeared to stabilise orbits. Then chemical bonds, then hydrogen bonds.

    As the Universe aged, it ‘complexified’

    Out of atomic systems come chemical systems. Out of these come complex chemistry which is pre-biotic. Then followed the chemical preconditions for life and you can see how where this is heading. Life is a complexity seeking and I haven’t even got past the trilobites. When we look at social structures of today it all points towards more complex structures.

    As you know I’ve been inhaling Terrence McKenna recently so I’m into this idea of increasing complexity and interestingly the process is speeding up. I think this is far more compelling than anything else I’m learning at the moment though this post (as ever) taps straight into one of the themes.

    Happy New Year Johnnie. I mean that 🙂


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