In the analysis of complex systems there is often an emphasis on the plasticity and adaptability of the system. Coupled with perspectives from chaos theory — like the sensitivity to initial conditions, critical organization, bifurcations, and fractal complexity — this has led to a general understanding of complex systems as something in constant flux and susceptible to rapid change. Although these may indeed be important characteristics of complexity, it has led to descriptions that neglect the stability and the enduring structures necessary for the existence of complex systems. In order for a system to have any identity whatsoever, it cannot merely reflect its environment and the changes therein, it must also resist some of these changes. This is not always recognized in a culture where speed is linked with efficiency, and has become a virtue in itself. This paper argues for a certain “slowness.” It is not necessary to follow every trend in the environment; as a matter of fact it can be detrimental. This has implications for the way in which we interact with each other, and for the way in which we use new technology, especially the technologies for media and communication. Being too “quick” also has implications for our understanding of important notions like integrity and reliability. The way in which complexity theory is used to analyze the contemporary cultural landscape by certain theorists, particularly Mark Taylor, will be criticized. In the process reference will be made to novels by Sten Nadolny and Milan Kundera.
What is inside and what is on top? Complex systems and hierarchies In the days – about a decade ago – when a start was made to apply complexity theory to all sorts of real-world problems like social systems and organizations, the notion of ‘hierarchy’ came under pressure. A number of important insights were responsible […]
Despite wonderful advances in the mathematics and science of complexity, despite clever modeling techniques, despite fantastic computing machines, and, above all, despite its being somewhat fashionable, I wish to argue that complexity theory will not lead to a grand science that will solve many of those difficult outstanding problems of science and philosophy. Rather, I […]
It is becoming rather monotonous continually reading articles that tell us how the concept of and the requirements for the modern organization are changing, how these are more complex than ever, and how a paradigm shift is necessary in order to facilitate our continued analysis, and management, of such entities. We are told that we […]
The strange thing about television is that it doesn’t tell you everything. It shows you everything about life on earth, but the mysteries remain. Perhaps it is in the nature of television. — Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth During most events concerned with knowledge management, someone starts a presentation by […]
A central philosophical problem, one that has concerned scientists as much as philosophers, is the relationship between our descriptions of the world and the world itself. This problem is present in one way or another in many different theoretical discourses: in discussions of the status of models and theories in science (instrumentalism, reductionism, realism, etc.), […]
Introduction The aim of this article is to investigate the implications of a general theory of complexity for social institutions and organizations, such as business corporations. Complexity theory has implications for the way we conceive of the structure of an organization, as well as for the way in which complex organizations should be managed. However, […]