Monday, June 25, 2007

Coping With Complexity -- Making Peace With "Less Than Omniscient" Knowledge of Complex Systems

How can we cope with the complexity of our lives without losing hope for the future? I think this is one of the premiere burning questions of the twenty-first century.

One strategy that I apply on a daily basis is to find a subset, a piece of the overall complexity that I can master well. Then I make my peace with my limited efficacy. As simple as that.

I tell myself not to get upset because I cannot understand everything in the overall picture and I live with that self-made contract as well as the uncertainty.

That way complexity still exists but it does not bother me as much because I feel I've chosen my own limited engagement on my own terms, with my free will.

Although my knowledge is still not perfect, I feel that my control over my life is nevertheless at a level that satisfies me and helps contain my techno- and existential anxieties.

For example, just because I'm not in full command of the complex steps involved in passing a bill in Congress, it does not mean that I cannot pick up the phone and register my opinions with my representative. I know and do that much.

Or I still do not know how to configure all the settings on one of those higher-end all-digital treadmill machines but I know how to start it manually, bring it up to a certain speed, and then stop it when I want to. Life is not an all-or-nothing proposition. It never was and never will be.

I will participate in the world and become involved in it to the extent that I can.

I will not accuse myself for not being "omniscient" about all these complex systems with no end. To the extent I can do that, the world ceases to be a complex enigma.

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