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April 10, 2011

In defense of Complexity & People who 'Think'

In recent times, Complexity or Complex Thinking has come under relentless criticism. Certain quarters of society even look down upon those who resort to deep thinking. To not engage in critical or deep thinking is fashionable and "cool". Those who think are considered naive. This is my submission to those claims.

Cause & Effect is one of the most fundamental laws of nature. Nature or Environment is the ultimate cause everything else is but an effect. Whenever the environment changed it resulted in numerous species adapting to it. Nowhere has a reverse phenomenon occurred, never has the change in the species caused the environment to adapt. Similarly complex thinking is outcome of the way ones 'life evolves'. It is safe to assume, everyone is born simple .. what follows thereafter, largely shapes the level of complexity in the way one thinks. It has been my observation that people who have had straight-forward lives tend to simplify, and those who had significant permutations tend to think complex. Often people are criticised that its their complex thinking that is the cause of complex situations. However in reality complex situations leads to complex thinking.

God is in simplicity. Simple living - Yes, Simple thinking - No. Case of an Atom is often cited to prove Gods simplistic ideals. Because structure of an atom was understood to be quite simple & elegant comprising a neutron, a proton & an electron. But in the last decade researchers have found a plethora of sub-atomic particles - quarks, leptons, muons, mesons..the list goes on. What was concluded as a simplistic atomic structure is proving out to be premature deja vu. In fact nature is so complex that after millenia of scientific inquiry we are not even remotely close to comprehending it. Ditto for DNA. If Universe is complex, why should Men the creation of the universe be thinking otherwise.

Simple Thinking --- Eat, drink, be merry,love a lot and do no harm to others, is the slogan often called out by proponents of simple thinking. And I wouldn't agree more, but this notion is fundamentally flawed. Because it makes - quest for knowledge, scientific curiosity, self-discovery, reflecting on life,inquiry into the very nature of our existence etc- unsophisticated or uncool. If all the great scientists, thinkers, inventors, explorers, philosophers, mathematicians, poets, doctors who preceded us had this limited vision of life, in all likelihood we would still be living in caves, hunting deers for lunch. ( May be ultimately that is what we might end up doing anyway)

Complex is not the same as Complicate --- Though Oxford dictionary does not discriminate between the two words, they are still distinct.let me explain. When I was studying Mechanical Engineering we went on a study tour of a Nuclear Power Plant. The plant was a labyrinth of cables, tunnels, valves, chambers, consoles, control panels et al. For me as a student it was very COMPLICATED, but for the power plant engineer it was MERELY COMPLEX.It is knowledge that Engineer had that tranformed something complicated (to me) into something merely complex ( to him). Truly Knowledge will set us free. Following this analogy further the notion that complex thinkers are complicated is inaccurate. Better example is the circuitry on the motherboard of any computer. .


Complex thinking does not lead to complex outcomes. It leads to more comprehensive outcomes especially since the problems that confront us today are non-linear, multi-dimensional & interconnected. Without that complex circuitry in your computer we would not be able to accomplish tasks that we take for granted today but which looked almost impossible to accomplish just 20 years ago.


Infact there is no such thing as Simple thinking,because the mere act of thinking is in itself a very complex sub-conscious process. No other species inhabiting the world have been endowed with this ability except humans. Indeed God is in Simplicity - But simplicity in Living, not Thinking !!

4 comments:

Chaity said...

well written samir... keep it up

Samir Konnur said...

Thanks as always Chaity .. and thanks for proof reading too :-)

Murali said...

Nice one, Samir.

Samir Konnur said...

Thanks Murali :-)