These are more than just children' games [referring to the above illusions—click for more]. Think about them for a moment and they become frightening. If the "reality" of these simple things is so illusive, how much more illusive is the reality of more complex things? When I walk down a street, in what sense do I see "reality"? But, you might argue, these diagrams were designed to fool the viewer. Perhaps ordinary seeing and hearing are not set up that way. How do you know?
-Lawrence B. Slobodkin, Simplicity and Complexity in Games of the Intellect
Is complexity the essence of reality's illusions? A comfort with uncertainty? A view of many elements at the same time? Ways elements of a situation or system interact with each other? A science not easy to understand? A buzzword growing in popularity in the world of conflict resolution?
To make sure I am not misusing the word and have a sufficient grasp of its meaning, I talked today with my friend Irene Sanders who is the executive director and founder of the Washington Center for Complexity & Public Policy. (Click to read my interview of her from a while back.)
Like me, she has noticed the word's current, and growing or perhaps recurring popularity. And Irene noted that it is often misused. Complexity has several components, she explained, and she pointed
...Complexity science is moving us away from a linear, mechanistic view of the world to one based on nonlinear dynamics, evolutionary development and systems thinking. It represents a dramatic new way of looking at things—not merely looking at more things at once. Complexity science provides new concepts, tools and a set of questions that can be very useful to analysts, prediction experts and policy‐makers as they work to identify and respond to the challenges of the twenty‐first century.
Stated simply, complexity arises in situations where an increasing number of independent variables begin interacting in interdependent and unpredictable ways. ...
Click to read the rest of the article. If you want to read more, take a look at her article "What Is Complexity?"
In conflict resolution, a complexity perspective can be extremely valuable. It also can be challenging because some of the brain's tendencies (resulting partly from fuel efficiency), such as pattern seeking, looking to the past, and preferring structure and predictability, can work against complexity thinking. I will blog soon about how we can increase our brains' complexity comfort.
What is your definition of complexity, especially as it relates to conflict resolution? I'd like to hear from you.