Complexity and systems thinkers need to STOP NOW!!

Complexity and systems thinkers are doing more harm than good.

Join the Campaign Against Complexity (CAC).


Complexity and systems thinkers need to put down your frameworks, scrap your models, burn your loopy diagrams, and step away, slowly, where we can see your hands, from trying to “make sense” of anything.

Enough is enough.

But what is going on?

300,000 years ago, the newly minted Homo Sapiens woke to a beautiful east African morning knowing that all they had to do was hunt, forage, protect their family, play with the tame sabre-tooth tiger, then bed. Though they hadn’t invented beds, let alone pocket sprung mattresses.

Human life was simple.

But that wasn’t enough. Oh no.

We, more fool us, founded tribes, appointed leaders, created civilisations, discovered agriculture, made music and art, invented money, had some wars and spread all this across the world, by walking and paddling mostly.

Still, life got a little more complicated, but it was still almost understandable. We were at one with nature, took what we needed and not too much of that.

Then came complexity. Sigh…

Us clever clogs fired up our enlarged prefrontal cortexes and came up with science, philosophy, politics, industry, economics, computers, the internet, My Space, and social media. Oops!

Now we are firmly in the realm of complexity. Everything is emergent – which is code for we don’t know what the **** is going on … or what will happen next.

But, still we can get on with our lives.

Quietly, in the midst of all this, it happened.

In the middle of the 20th century some people with too much time on their hands invented “systems thinking” and some other ne’er-do-wells thunk up “complexity science”. That’s when it went too far.

Sure, we’d always had ancient philosophies that spoke of the “connectedness of all things” and the like, but that was just a way to calm us down in the face of all the bigness that we saw around the place.

“Just accept it,” they said, “you and I are small fry and it’s way easier if you learn to live with it.” We mostly ignored that good advice and tried to prove we were important and needed to be noticed by the Universe. (It didn’t work. The Universe doesn’t care and never will.)

Think of it this way. Emergence is a property of complexity, but at the same time complexity is also an emergent property of situations with lots of actors and interactions.

The “natural” complexity that emerged from there being lots of us all interacting, we could live with. But all this complexity and systems thinking and all the complexity and systems thinkers have tipped it over the edge.

What do complexity and systems people always suggest that we do? “More people should talk more about what is going on.” How is that helping?

Can’t they see what they are saying? You couldn’t make it up.

Complexity arises out of actors interacting. More actors interacting more makes it worse. Then you need more sense-making to make sense out of all the interactions of the sense-making and the sense-makers. It never ends!

It has to stop now.

Hence the urgent need for the Campaign Against Complexity (and System Thinking) (CAC(st)).

All the complexity people are making it worse. And don’t get me started on the second-order systems thinking. Thinking about the systems of thinking about the systems. It’s just ridiculous.

If we want to get a handle on the complexity of the modern world, the first thing we have to do is stop everyone thinking, talking and interacting about complexity and systems. It won’t put the genie back in the bottle, but it may stop the exponential growth of complexity.

So please share this and tell your friends.

Or in fact, to reduce the interactions, don’t tell them. Keep it to yourself. And just stop tweeting and emailing and transacting and don’t talk to anyone. Except your mum, because she gave birth to you, and she deserves something back.

And if you know anyone who is getting curious about complexity and systems thinking then lock them up. Well, that might be illegal so maybe distract them with, say, biscuits. Abbey Crunch are nice, or they would be if you could still get them. Harumph! (That’s our next campaign.)

So don’t tell anyone about the Campaign Against Complexity (CAC) and pretty soon life will be understandable again.

Simple, eh?

See you on the savannah!

(Hope you enjoyed this April Fool. If so you might like Stafford Beer’s Lost Book and Complexity is Solved.)

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