On complexity theory

Complexity theory considers the world and nature as a set of systems, and creates solutions to challenges based upon how parts of the system are connected and communicate.

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.

4 thoughts on “On complexity theory

  1. Complexity theory feels quite familiar from what your describing, in terms of alternative esoteric visions anyway. I first came across the “hive mind as evolutionary step” in Richard Gardner’s writings. A similar idea is really key to Maat Magick. It very much matches how I see the interdependence of things, and the open ended nature of being. What Maat Magick explicitly poses is the question of collective awareness without loss of individuality (which it clearly doesn’t propose). We are used to the idea of group minds working below individual consciousness level, but this of course is the gestalting of a higher order of consciousness and organisation awareness, which individuals (under the right conditions) contribute to and draw from. One of the symbols of Maat Magick is the bee, and the saying “by the same mouth” refers to the give and take of the system, as bees give and take from each other, while also contributing and benefiting from the hive which none of them could build on their own. In the hive the queen is not so much the creator of the hive, as it’s latent form for purposes of replication maybe.

    1. it also interests me that the Aeon of Maat and the Aeon of Set were declared/manifested/discovered at about the same time (1974/75), and both are trans-temporal Aeons, recognising Aeons as states of consciousness, rather than just external “ages”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s