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I have had the pleasure of co–teaching Complexity by Design at Parsons SDM last semester, and engage with wonderful thinkers and institutes in this space. 

It is becoming increasingly clear that complexity thinking (definition to come later) is a core part of modern life. This was discussed in different circles before we all got into this state of unknowingness. 

I have been working with a very acute definition of complexity, but given that the field is emerging (no pun intended) I wanted to linger a moment on its positionality.


I have been working with 2.5 versions of complexity: a partial list of links and resources to follow.

V1: Scientific

V2: Management 

V 2.5: Self-Leading

A lot of the leadership advice, individuation, Jungian ideas of synchronicity, and adjacent thinking on signifiers and semiotics are all very much complexity friendly.

Mostly because they accept the behaviorist nature of our world (the noise in your head is different than the noise in mine).


My working list of axioms around complex systems is: 

  • interconnected overrules design: they are not designable

  • in fact: emergence (it just happens…’ as one student informally articulated) is the opposite of design

  • A system is as complex as we need it to be: we can exercise reduction if the situation allows, and seek extra details (context) when the solution slides off the problem

  • Complex systems are open ended

  • hence a machine can never be truly intelligent by the way (I recommend Marcus’ book for those interested in that point)

Complicated systems–like a car, computer program or the highway system–are an elaborate stacking of known constructs. 

We can model the difference between complex and complicated as the difference between designing a highway system or designing less accidents.

p.s. I am sure I left links out, please comment with ideas and suggestions - I would love to add to this list.

April 7, 2020


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