I have been following some fierce online arguments about complexity lately and recognising how easy it is for these things to get very heated. There is something about understanding the subtleties of complex systems that seems paradoxically, to trigger our more animal passions. In may case, these include anxiety (if I were to join in, would I end up getting metaphorically punched in the face by these guys) but also amusement. I bet I’m not the only one that finds these slugfests fun to watch from a safe distance, with the attendant unjustified sense of superiority.
I was going to say that the fierceness of the language means the signal to noise ratio gets worse. So much emotional heat, not so much light.
But then I got to thinking, actually even the noise is really a signal. The argument about complexity is itself a complex system, full of unexpected consequences and chain reactions. We can talk about having sophisticated understandings of complexity but we’d better be realistic about the likelihood of getting much agreement about them if we try to capture them in language.