The age of the unthinkable – Why the new world disorder constantly surprises us and what we can do about it? ~ Joshua Cooper Ramo
Complex-systems scientists, when asked, “What’s a complex system?” usually just reply: “”Look out the window!”
Clouds, mountains, rivers, the whole jumbled and surprising landscape of our world, are expressions of what results from unpredictable interactions.
Per Bak, a magnificient scientist, once explained the importance of complexity by saying, “Most phenomena around us seem rather distant from the basic laws of physics.”
He meant that what you see out your window usually can’t be explained by the rules of energy or motion that most physicists rely on.
They require a leap into a more complex, buried logic. Bak used to tell a joke popular among the more rebellious scientists about the dairy farmer who hired a theoretical physicist for help in raising cows that would produce more milk.
The physicist came to the farm, spoke with the farmer, disappeared for several years, and then returned with the good news that he had found an answer. “Imagine,” he began, “a spherical cow…” 😛 😛
Bak’s frustration with the old ways of seeing the world in science was that they too often began with these sorts of assumptions and simplifications.
You should pick ideas and make choices because they worked, because they were practical, and not because you dreamed,
as Hitler or Lenin had, that they fit into some larger historical process.
Idealism, the notion that history should be moved by moral principles such as justice or humanity, struck Morgethau as a poor basis for policy. Who, after all, was to say what was “moral” and what was not?
“The realist,” he wrote, “parts company with other schools of thought before the all-important question of how the contemporary world is to be transformed.
The realist is persuaded that this transformation can be achieved only through the workmanlike manipulation of the perennial forces that have shaped the past as they will the future.”