Roland Dürre
Friday July 8th, 2016

Can We Reduce Complexity?!

A short time ago, I integrated a knowledge proposal (Wissensangebot) by Thomas Kleiner into IF-AGORA. The message was:

“How to reasonably reduce
complexity
without making it trivial!“

Thomas offers seminars to managers that enable them to come to better terms with our complex world. And basically, he is always sold out.

I also twittered his new proposal. I gave it the title “How to reasonably reduce complexity!“ In no time, received feedback came in, for example “this statement is a complete #fail“ or “well, I look forward to seeing how that is supposed to functionl“.

Unser Kater Lenin, genannt Wladi.Sein Bruder Stalin, genannt Joschi, ist ausgezogen.

Our tom Kater Lenin, aka Wladi. His brother Stalin, aka Joschi, moved out. A very complex animal, not just biologically speaking.
Owner:
Barbara Dürre (cat)
Maresa Dürre (photo)

Well, you need to know that, on the internet, there is an intense discussion about the difference between “complicated” and “complex”. There was even a PM-Camp about project management in Berlin that tried to define the two terms.

Project managers had quite heated discussions about how to differentiate between complex projects and complicated projects. Also about how to solve those problems.

Personally, I can only speculate that dominant logics will not help either in a complex world. But then, where is the surprise? After all, it even often fails in very simple worlds and with merely complicated projects.

Incidentally, I very much appreciate one of the protagonists involved in the discussion about “complex versus complicated”: Niels Pflaeging. Although I always doubt if his analyses are correct, I certainly wholeheartedly believe in his conclusions.

Back to the knowledge proposal. You need to know that Thomas Kleiner is a wise philosopher. His diploma thesis is about “The Concept of Humanity in the Work of Rupert Lay“. It was not the only reason why he studied “constructivism” – and, as I see it, he actually understood it.

The theory of “constructivism” made me even more convinced that the categorization of a system or project as complex or complicated only happens in the cognitive awareness of the listener.

I also think the complexity and complicatedness cannot be understood or measured with scientific methods or metrics. It is a philosophical topic, or, as they used to say, one of “metaphysics”.

For us, “complex” is just as hard to understand as “endless”. Complex is something you cannot rationally define. I only know metaphors that are supposed to express complexity, but not a single one of them can serve as a valid, comprehensible and objective definition.

Consequently, I think the “reasonable reduction” of “complexity” is absolutely goal-oriented and possible. After all, it concerns the subjective perception of what seems to be reality and the way we deal with it. And, of course, I also think that you should never ever trivialize complexity.

No. Complexity is something you should enjoy and relish!

Here is an example:

I need our tom-cat to illustrate what I mean. Officially, his name is Lenin. However, the family calls him Wladi because they do not like the name Lenin. Unfortunately, his brother Stalin (the family called him Joschi) moved out. He no longer got along with Lenin .

Tom-cat “Wladi“ Lenin is certainly a very complex system, just like all mammals. I will reduce his complexity by just referring to him as cat or pet. In this way, I can make use of a lot of experience humanity has gained in dealing with cats without trivializing the animal. In fact, I might even like him and be able to find his activities conclusive. Regardless of the fact that I will never understand the complexity of a cat.

Persons who think you (HUMANS) could know and realize anything you set your mind to actually scare me. They try to change “complex” system with great speed and harsh measures. My fear increases when these measures are about our environment (nature) or our health (also nature).

I witnessed the tragic fate of quite a few elderly persons. Medicine made their last years absolutely miserable because it tried to heal them with scientific rationality. It would have been so much more helpful if they had just applied the rules of reason and reduced and simplified many processes.

To me, it seems like something similar is currently happening to our planet.

Far too many persons believe you can categorize the world into complex and complicated and thus change it for the better through rationality. As I see it, this is some kind of “omnipotent mental decease”. And I fear that, as often, “the chickens are counted before they hatch”. Except that it will take a lot longer for us to realize this.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

1 Kommentar zu “Can We Reduce Complexity?!”

  1. Chris Wood (Friday July 8th, 2016)

    I cannot believe that you regard your cat, “Lenin“, as just a pet cat.
    If so, you could not distinguish it from any other pet cat.
    Or does this result from constructivism?
    Is there not a law of thermodynamics that complexity can only increase?
    Perhaps it is this that makes the difference between past and future.

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