Possible Roads for our Lives to Take– Part 3: Systemic Intelligence or Move to Simplicism

Posted: September 6, 2012 by Alison in Articles/Essays, Food For Thought
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By Juha Saukkonen
JAMK IB Senior Lecturer

The world of today is complex and systemic, no doubt about that. We have all seen how events e.g. in one nation’s economic climate starts a chain of events on many fronts. The intellectual and technological tools to model, forecast and steer these systems is an area of constant and even accelerating development. Believers in Systemic Intelligence have lately been confronted with views from opposite school: Simplicists, as the (sadly) late Finnish Futures thinker Mika Mannermaa put it. Both have their arguments, and I challenge you, IB Blog readers once again to think what is your “futurible” – image of future – in this respect.

Why systems and system intelligence?

The proponents of continuing era of system understanding (very short version) say that:

  1. If we do not even try to understand systems and their operating logic, we are hiding our heads in the sand. The world is made of complex interactions, and our understanding of them should and could be improved.
  2. System models built by economists and politicians are not perfect, admittedly, but their motivation is sound and healthy. By using certain reasonable pre-assumptions and limitations, we can approximate what course of action in a bigger system will follow when a certain decision is done by one member in the system. The system is a simulation that tries to predict or explain that if we do A then B will follow, using some assumptions and simplifications, but still trying to maintain “wisdom of the system”, so be able to show relations between different actions and actors in the marketplace, political system etc.

Simplicism as an alternative?

The school of simplicism (it is not – at least not yet – a formal group of thinkers or movement) say that believing in the wisdom of the system intelligence creates risks. Automated stock trading systems can be seen as part of that risk creation? And in order to reduce risks we then create new and better systems…the cycle is never-ending. Mannermaa even saw as one future profession being “simplicism consultant”, who helps people and organisations to reinvent the core, the truly essential things to concentrate on instead of trying to create understanding of a very complex whole we call system. Some of the principles that would step in would be such as 1) leaving out some factors 2) forgetting the past 3) being satisfied with mediocrity etc. Interesting, but is it possible? And would it mean abandoning the value of vast information gathered and created over the decades and centuries in our societies…

How do YOU stand in respect to these possible futures on this line between Systems and Simplicism?


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