Ming the Mechanic:
Denial of complexity

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Denial of complexity2007-06-14 13:47
8 comments
picture by Flemming Funch


"The essence of tyranny is the denial of complexity". -Jacob Burkhardt
What a great quote! Burkhardt was a Swiss social historian from the 19th century. He is credited with discovering (identifying) the age of the Renaissance. And for that matter also with the basic idea of being able to study and describe different periods as a whole, including culture, institutions, daily life, etc.

Life is complex, biologically, socially, culturally. The most awesome stuff that exists is complex. The universe, evolution, eco-systems, art, adventure, human culture in general, and the human mind.

That same human mind is at a crucial point in its evolution. We can consciously think abstractly. But not very well. The part of our mind we're conscious of, and that we usually identify with as "me", typically has an extremely inflated idea of its own worth and its own independent existence. That despite that it can only solve extremely simple problems, and it doesn't even know how. It over-simplifies everything, and it tends to think it is in charge.

That simple mind is also the wonderous faculty for paying attention and appreciating life, and for consciously discovering the mysteries of the universe and of human existence.

But when the simple mind gets stuck in the idea that it is in charge, and one of those simple minds end up commanding armies of millions of men, and huge economies, guiding the lives of billions, we're quite a bit in trouble. When the simple mind doesn't accept the complexity that brought it about, and it actually believes that its simple ideas are facts, and it tries to act accordingly, then we're in a lot of trouble. Yes, tyranny is when powerful rulers decide that the complexity simply is unacceptable, and it tries to control it, deny it, wipe it out. When a small group of people agree on a small list of small ideas as being the correct ones, validated by nothing much more than the voices in their heads, life is in danger. Doesn't matter much if their ideas are religious or moral or economical or political. It is the denial of the fundamental complexity of things that turns it into tyranny.

What saves us is often that those simple minds make many mistakes and miscalculations, so eventually their schemes fall apart. But it might take a while, and it is hard to predict what they take with them on the way down.

It hopefully sorts itself out in time, before it is too late. As the world becomes more complex, it gets harder to control big chunks of it without some understanding of complexity. One can still win in the short term by strategies of denying complexity, by forcing life into simple monocultural molds. But complexity has a life of its own, and there will inevitably be a certain evolutionary natural selection that takes place. The stuff that works will outcompete the stuff that doesn't work, given enough time.

And that in itself is reason for limitless optimism. Simple, rigid structures are subject to entropy. They fall apart over time, turn to dust. Wheras complexity, of the type that life is made of, regenerates, re-configures itself, it evolves, it transitions to higher orders of organization. I think I'm gonna place my bets on life.


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8 comments

16 Jun 2007 @ 22:14 by Lionel @82.227.198.101 : Denial
Very profound. We could also add that tyranny is the denial of doubt. Or compassion. (Or humour.)  


18 Jun 2007 @ 17:01 by swanny : Sweet
sweet this sounds like an impressive man
Perhaps not as impressive but more egnimatic was Pierre Elliot Trudeau
The late great PM of Canada who said something to the effect
"That the outcome of Tryanny is always revolution"
If my net connection was workin properly I'd go hunt for the real mckoy
but thanks... for the succient and profound quote

ed  



18 Jun 2007 @ 17:10 by swanny : Found it...!
The great lesson to draw from revolutions is not that they devour humanity but rather that tyranny never fails to generate them. - Pierre Elliott Trudeau  


19 Jun 2007 @ 13:29 by anandavala : Ego and the Denial of Complexity

Wonderful article Flemming !!!!
It resonates very strongly with my own ideas and it inspired me to comment on it in a little detail - I hope it adds something to the discussion. I've spent years exploring the system theoretic complexity underlying all aspects of reality and lately focusing on the connection between ego and tyranny.

But it became to long for a comment here so I posted it as a separate article titled "Ego and the Denial of Complexity" in the subject "Organizational Development" it can also be viewed on my news log at: [link]

I've only recently discovered NCN and must thank you sincerely for creating such a wonderful resource and encouraging a communion of such great minds - I've read some inspiring things in my short time here and hope to have some meaningful discussions.

Blessed be :)
John  



19 Jun 2007 @ 22:59 by ming : Ego
Thank you for your comments, John. And you're posting some great stuff in your blog, which I'll look more closely at.  


6 Aug 2011 @ 04:11 by Dave Pollard @75.157.204.228 : It's in our nature...
It's in our nature to look for patterns, to try to simplify and explain complex phenomena with simple rules, and copy it with simple mechanics. Science after all is nothing more, or less, than a model of reality that is interesting, and sometimes useful. Alas, too often we mistake it for fact, for that reality itself.  


25 Aug 2011 @ 14:51 by Rien @82.95.146.120 : Translation & Publication
Hi Ming, I have translated this article to dutch and would like your permission to publicize it on a dutch libertarian website. (I estimate about 2000 viewers).
Any problems with that?
(I will of course link to your site and give you you the credits)  



9 Sep 2011 @ 02:28 by ming : Translation
Sure, no problem at all!  


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