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So, someone killed my laptop this weekend. More on that later*.

I wanted to respond to a throwaway phrase in a book I’m reading by Jeff Tumlin, “Sustainable Transportation Planning”: “nature is unfathomably complex, and in her complexity lies strength” The problem with this statement is that it comes from a systems perspective.  It holds that complex things are therefore strong.  Having worked on a few modeling, IT, and engineering projects.  I assure you this is exactly opposite from the truth.  Complex things are fragile.  No one can tell how they work, and if they did, no one can understand where to start fixing them if something goes wrong.

afghanistan-power-point

^ Can you find the solution here? a.k.a. What insultants get paid to create.

The reason nature (or any other system) is strong is not because it is complex, but because its individuals do what they do as if their lives depended on it.  Nature is made up of quadrillions of individuals whose life or death instructions are “live, eat, and screw”.  The only thing most individuals can eat is other individuals, and the only thing most can screw is the very limited set of individuals of their same species. All of nature is made up of those three directions and their interactions. Horribly complex when you look at it all, but easy to understand up close.  If you want to erase it, we’ve got a rich body of engineering knowledge that tells us how to replace those systems with the vital system need of parking.  If you want to fix “nature” you can apply aggregate things like native species, trellises, breakwaters, fertilizers, water, or whatnot, but the fixes happen only if the treatment you apply is met by individuals able to use what you give them better that the individuals you don’t want.

That doesn’t often happen.  Often because we remain overawed by the power of complexity to give us power over a system.  Systems don’t make decisions, individuals do.  Many individual in many systems do not agree with us at all about our goals.  Even in a “bad outcome” some set of individuals are getting what they wanted. Railing against conspiracies, folkways, movements and weeds is not nearly as useful appealing to individual interests. * I’ll have to change things for a bit, like shorter posts and not positing from said laptop.  However, I was getting sick of my thought processes over the last month or so, and this may have been just the hot slap in the keyboard I needed.

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