Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Complexity and Change

Originally posted on May 22, 2012

Not only is the world changing at an accelerating rate, but many things are becoming far more complex than they used to be—not only because our tools are more refined and we keep discovering levels of complexity not known previously (as in microscopy or astronomy), but also  as we contemplate consciousness the number of variables increase. It’s not so much that these variables have been opaque to us as that we’ve just not known how to integrate them. Coming from a mechanistic and reductionistic world-view, there was a fantasy that morphed into a belief or assumptions that if we could really understand some elements, that would help us get a grip on more elements. But it’s not so, because the elements to be discovered often partake of different qualities and need a more complex approach!

As my mind tips on the edge of boggle because there are so many variables to be juggled, it occurs to me further that part of the dynamic is my own resistance to the experience of overload. Reality, if it be accurately perceived, really is quite overloading to the human mind. Reality is replete with subtleties, nuances, and that which has yet to be named. Also for those who contemplate reality in depth, it becomes dimly apparent that much of what we think of as reality is not well defined in its own essence—it can’t be defined, its boundaries are innately fuzzy, transparent, overlapping, multi-dimensional. (I have become aware of a colleague in England, Prof. Alan Rayner, who has developed a theory of “natural inclusionality” that speaks to this phenomenon. He delightfully approaches the problem using poetry, art, and carefully reasoned argument!)

Anyway, the closer I examine boundaries, the more multi-dimensional and ineffable they become. This is also compatible with Whitehead’s “process philosophy” or “Philosophy of Organism,” which I find intellectually profound and compelling. There are obvious causal and not-clearly-causal influences by innumerable factors, from caring or preferring that something be the way we might desire, or expect, to the influence and preferences of other sentient beings with other preferences!

It comes down to whether anything non-trivial can ever be known. More, lest this question be too disturbing, might it be so that we can live richly and productively without having to have a firm grip on knowing or controlling? Go a bit further: What if trying to control more than, say, 40% of what goes on generates too much “over-controlling” or “control-freak” metaphysical friction in the highly, inconceivably highly complex systems in which we live. (In some simple systems, certain situations benefit from taking responsibility to be 95% or more in control; but this truth may have little applicability to highly complex systems, in which a measure of out-of-control-ness, spontaneity, feedback, and attempts at perceiving and interpreting accurately the feedback, all play a much more prominent role.)  So that’s the thought for the day.

One Response to “Complexity and Change”

  • Alan Rayner says:

    Thank you so much for referring to my work on natural inclusionality (NI), which I feel could do much to help us (humanity) out from a profound pickle that we’ve got ourselves into by trying to impose an unnatural order on things. NI recognises that the wonderful, complex, changeable variety of the natural world arises from what in essence is a very simple dynamic involving two distinct but mutually inclusive presences: space and energy. Space without energy would be formless everywhere. Energy without space would be dimensionless – nowhere. Each in the other co-create the natural energy flow of ‘place-time’. But for thousands of years, abstract human thought has tried to tame the wildness of this flow by confining or excluding within or outside definitive boundaries what is actually the continuity of space everywhere as an intangible (frictionless) and hence receptive presence. This simply cannot and does not work: it produces paradox, not natural sense and renders our lives far more COMPLICATED, DULL AND CONFLICT-RIDDEN(as distinct from complex, inspiring and creative) than it needs to be. To my mind, the need for humanity to move beyond the confining, adversarial paradigms of of such ABSTRACT RATIONality into the adventurous, compassionate awareness of NATURAL INCLUSIONality is intensifying daily.

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