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Human beings will be happier - not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That's my utopia.
~Kurt Vonnegut
Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Complexity and Intuitive Thought

Dave Pollard has an interesting entry about Freakonomics and Complexity.
He compares complicated systems and complex systems and continues the thought by pointing out that both economic and social behaviors are complex, not merely complicated.
Conventional wisdom, which is gradually changing, neglects to take us below the surface and neglects to look for and recognise patterns. He points to the value of attractors and barriers, or incentives/disincentives to bring about change or to find effective actions. Read his entire post to better understand the importance of implementing change using a different approach.
Complicated systems are the left-brainer's dream: To decide what to do all you need to do is identify all the variables, determine which causes which (using root cause analysis), draw systems thinking diagrams to depict the relationships, assess the possible points of intervention that could lead to a different and desired result (e.g. turn a self-reinforcing vicious circle into a virtuous one), recommend those interventions and collect your fee. Very scientific, and lots of fun. Unfortunately, in the modern world, complicated systems are fairly rare.

Complex systems are the rule, and they are not completely knowable or analyzable because the number of variables is essentially infinite, and hence the consequences of any particular intervention are largely unpredictable. You need to use a more sophisticated, less scientific approach when you're dealing with complex systems, and be more tentative in your assessments. Freakonomics deconstructs some of the many erroneous and dangerous assessments we tend to make, and actions we therefore take, when we treat complex systems as merely complicated.

Now to further his thought, I'll point to something I found the other day, an orange beneath the apple peel, another layer that confounds conventional thinking, a deeper layer that places value on creative change within a differently structured thought process. It helps me know why I find patterns so intriguing and often so simple, yet I can't figure out how I figure it out, and why I can't begin to put it all into words but find Dave's ability to flesh it out fascinating.
Intuitive Intelligence. Intuitive intelligence is the ability to learn complex skills and solve problems on a subconscious basis; for example, a child learning to speak without learning the rules of grammar. The rules of grammar actually were learned, but the child cannot tell you want they are. This type of intelligence is particularly powerful at picking up patterns in a seemingly chaotic situation. When the right answer to a complex problem pops into your head but you can't figure out how you came up with it, it's probably the product of your intuition. Important: Intuitive intelligence is better at solving certain types of complex problem than our conscience, sensory intelligence.

The article above connects intuitive intelligence with ADD. Perhaps that's why I feel so scattered and wordless at times even though it's there. As long as Dave can get the words out, I can nod my head and say, "Yeah, that's it!" Now if I could always Remember What I Already Know. :)
posted by Cyndy | link | | |


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