Thursday, February 17, 2011

Complexity . . . Meh . . . Whatever

Just to maintain continuity, I figured I'd discuss a Charles Hugh Smith essay for three days in a row.  This one is called "Complexity: Bureaucratic (Death Spiral) and Self-Organizing (Sustainable) ."

I don't have any comments on what he has to say about complexity expect that it is completely irrelevant.


Because, as far as human beings are concerned, the world is no more and no less complex that it has ever been.

Human beings are not wired to comprehend complexity, they're wired to ignore it.  The world has always been far too complex for humans to comprehend, which is why we've created religions like Christianity, Islam, and economics (a secular religion).  It's all about "satisficing."

All human systems (e.g., societies, states, corporations, bureaucracies, etc.) merely serve three basic functions: expectation setting; perception shaping; and applying force.  Remember, human beings define happiness by comparing what they see to what they expect and confirming that expectations are met.  Expectation setting is the single most important function, which is achieved in human systems by transmitting value systems through societal institutions.  Perception shaping is next most important, but cognitive biases always kick in to help, so propaganda is a lot easier than initial conditioning.  Applying force is what you do when people get too upset when they realize that reality is not what they were taught to expect in spite of all efforts to control perceptions.

Human systems do not fail because they become too complex.  They're always the same in terms of the functions they perform.  No, they fail because the people performing those functions become too simple to comprehend the entirety of the function they're performing, i.e., they lose their way and, ultimately, make a misstep that causes the masses to choose "fight" when presented with the "fight or flight" reflex. 

Ultimately, I tend to view "complexity" arguments as a symptom of a weak will.  Human beings are no more or less complex than they ever have been in history, and the complexity of human systems is identical to that of a single human being.  Yes, more people are involved, but the functions that must be served remain the same.  The manner in which the human mind interacts with what is outside of it is the chokepoint.  Whether you have an 16-bit brain, or a 64-bit brain, you're stuck with an 8-bit bus that limits how you perceive and interact with the outside world.  The good news is that you can engineer the bus to sample multiple times a clock cycle to effectively increase your bandwidth, but you have to realize the limitations that are hardwired into your system.  Most people just accept the 8-bit, single sample per clock cycle limitation, though. 

Complexity is a bitch, you know.  We simply can't comprehend it all.

But you don't have to understand complexity in its entirety.  You just have to understand the building block that gets replicated to create the appearance of that complexity; i.e. the basic function of the human mind.  Tinfoil hat conspiracy theorists inherently internalize this understanding because the only way elaborate conspiracy theories could be so successful is if human beings were exceedingly simple.  Well, human beings are exceedingly simple, and they're all fundamentally the same regardless of how different they appear to be.