Fantastical Thinking

Fantastical Thinking


“Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”

Dr. Seuss

I love Dr Seuss. I agree that escapism is healthy – we need it to survive and I practice escapism all the time. However – acknowledging reality can also be about survival. It is important to choose when to fantasize and when to know your going over the tipping point.

I have just read some of the work by John Casti, Phd. Casti is a systems guy who likes to look at both reality and fantasy. He looks at large systems and understands how they behave, particularly why they sometimes go over the tipping point and what we can do to prevent it.

He calls his idea the complexity gap – something that we should all know about. The basic principle is the system being managed has to be less complex than the managing system. He has shown that if the system being managed is more complex, it will go to chaos and fail. So before your eyes glaze over – here is how it works.

Complexity Gap Tipping PointLet’s say you are driving down the road at 60 MPH. This is a complex situation – lots of things can happen. You being the manager of this system can handle it – after all there are only three things you have to do – steer, step on the gas, step on the brake. With those three things, you have the complexity in your own brain and body to take care of almost all things that show up unexpectedly like a big truck in front suddenly stopping.

Now let’s say there is a screaming kid in the back seat. The system is now more complex as you try to both comfort the child and continue to drive. Now let’s say, a text comes in on your phone saying you have to urgently reply. And so you do. Now the situation is more complex than your ability to handle the car, the screaming kid and reply to the text – and so you crash into the vehicle in front of you. This is what happened one tragic day to Randreaita Coleman and her infant son – she crossed the tipping point.

The environment is a much more complex system then driving down the road. Once upon a time we saw ourselves as part of it. We started to tinker with the environment and we saw that we could control it in small ways. And so we tinkered with it more. Now we are realizing that the complexity of nature is greater than the complexity of our systems we are using to manage it. And nature is giving us the warning signs that it is getting ready to cross the tipping point and go into chaos.

We as a human race are attempting to get ahead of this complexity gap by developing ever more complex technology – genetic engineering and artificial intelligence being the poster children for this technology.

Artificial intelligence machines are becoming ever smarter than humans – they can handle greater complexity than we can. But – I ask – how do we manage the complexity that is greater than ours in the machines we are building? Many credible people – Steven Hawking, Elon Munsk, Bill Gates as well as highly recognized academics are warning that we are unlikely able to control the genies we are creating. (Elon Munsk’s strategy is to escape to Mars in his own rocket – what are we going to do?)

So what can we do about this? One strategy is to fantasize our way to the end. But I like Dr Ervin Lazlo’s idea better. He is a philosopher and scientist nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (twice) for his ideas on how to shift the world and he is the founder of The Budapest Club – a Think Tank of people who care.

His thoughts, as all elegant thoughts are – are simple. We are not going to get change from the top – there is too much vested self interest in the status quo. Change has to come from the masses (that’s us). Reshaping Our World is committed to supporting the Changemakers who will lead this process. If you see yourself as a Changemaker, tell us who you are. We want to help you.

It is reality that awakens possibilities, and nothing would be more perverse than to deny it.” Robert Musil

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