There are moments when I feel like that fellow who told his colleagues that if they washed their hands fewer patients they operated on would die, they did not believe him, and eventually had him locked up in a mental asylum for saying these “crazy” things.
The “crazy” things I talk about is complexity theory, a set of thinking tools that treats the world and nature as systems. These tools are an alternative to the linear reductionist tools used by everyone to solve their problems.
I also feel like that guy who offers people two pills, the blue or red one, the red pill being complexity theory, which wakes the individual to a different way of looking at reality. Even though complexity theory makes perfect sense and offers a diversity of new solutions in which to tackle the challenges of life and this world, for most people this appears to be too much of a leap, they select the blue pill, and go on thinking and doing things as they have done before. I am kind of stunned that in nine of every ten situations, people will always go for the blue pill, and complexity theory remains something strange and unknown to most people, even though this decades old set of tools could be the primary way of problem solving to political, economic, social and environmental challenges.
Complexity theory considers that nature and our world is a network of systems, that to offer a practical solution to a challenge it is better to look at how parts of the system are connected to each other, and offer solutions based upon the connections of the system rather than one part. As an example, the homeless crisis in many cities is the product of a swarm of inter-related issues, but decision-makers will only offer a small number of proposed solutions to address one or two issues without any understanding how this impacts the system as a whole. It is no use for instance jailing a person for sleeping in a doorway in a city centre, more homeless will come along to replace them, and the jailed individual will be back sleeping in the doorway when they leave jail. Neither does kicking homeless people out of a place, as they move on to become an issue in another part of a city.
Because decision-makers rarely offer solutions to challenges based upon systems, they create a cobra effect, making the issue worse with their solution. Cobra effect is named after a solution that the rulers of India offered to the issue of people being bitten by cobra snakes; they offered a reward for every dead cobra; so enterprising people set up cobra farms to breed cobras; when the rulers realised the scam, they stopped the scheme; the cobra breeders stopped making money, set their snakes free, leaving India with more cobra snakes than they started with.
I could of course stamp and scream in indignation at the choice of most people, especially the thinkers and decision-makers, of rejecting complexity theory in their planning and execution of solutions to the challenges of society, but I could instead see this as an opportunity to make a pile of money by offering products and solutions that nobody else offers based on complexity theory. Their loss, my gain.