Furthering complex evolution

Living systems naturally become more complex through encounters with external complexity. The system's current inability to be receptive and/or responsive to inputs from outside triggers adaptation or assimilation processes. Feedback from the 'failed encounter" provokes added considerations, alternatives and routines. External complexity begets internal complexity.

Mechanisms cannot become more complex. Automated systems cannot change their own rules, learn from feedback or adapt to unfamiliar inputs. Mechanisms can only play by their rules and reliably do what they always do. They succeed in the ways they previously succeeded. Like the boy with a hammer in his hand, everything looks like the head of nail. Mechanisms do their thing when it's called for according to it's own rules which overrules any indicators of variety, change or added complexity.

Humans and human systems are hybrids between living systems and mechanisms. When these hybrids function like living systems, we label them open, permeable, responsive, adaptive, learning and complex systems. When they function as mechanisms, we label them as closed, defensive, unresponsive, dysfunctional, stuck and overly simplistic systems. In order to function as a living system, these hybrids need to be curious in a place where it's safe to make mistakes. This contrasts with situations where mistakes are fatal or extremely costly because survival or a zero-sum success is at stake.

We can further the evolution of the human hybrids by any of the following strategies, among others:
  • Giving permission to make mistakes, learn from errors without test anxiety and debug the current understanding by seeing where it messes up.
  • Giving protection from devastating failures through social safety nets, "retests for full credit", and "game over play again?" frames
  • Giving acknowledgment of current intentions, constraints, and obligations which open closed minds and lower defenses
  • Giving expectations to become more responsive, better adapted and more complex in response to the external complexity
When we give like this, we get back in return. We launch a cycle which nurtures further complexity. We reverse the cycle that withholds these gifts until the system performs correctly. We undo the relentless production of anxiety, defensive rationalizations and fear of making mistakes. We give the treatment we'd like to receive when aspiring to become more complex.

No comments:

Post a Comment