Our Age of Anxiety is, in great part, the result of trying to do todays job with yesterdays tools and yesterdays concepts…

-Marshall McLuhan

Our Bounded Rationality – the Limits of Logic – the need for – Negative Capability – recognising the Knightian Uncertainty – reflects the – Emergent – Unfolding – The Adjacent Possible – nature of – our complex Material World …

- The Complexity Void

Recognising how our cognitive assumptions can distort our perception of Reality it involved applying careful observation of the natural world and rigorous skepticism to what we observe.

Through the process of deduction — via experimental and measurement based testing — a thesis, antithesis and ultimately a hypothesis are shaped — a Heuristica model of the world — a theory of — the What? and How? .

These tools were an empirical method of uncovering new knowledge in our search for truth and better understanding the nature of Reality — a way to bridge The Reality Gap [3 ]— information received by means of our senses, particularly observation and “seeing” — the documentation of patterns and behaviours through experimentation.

Formal Logic [4] – It built on Aristotles mental structure forms of consciousness — logic[4a], reason, prediction and cause-effect — abstract, deduction and reproducibility — a reductionist form of navigation — Certainty in an Uncertain World — an evolutionary Fitness Landscape dominated by Hill Climbers vs Valley Crossers[5].

According to filmmaker, writer and educator — Nora Bateson — in her May, 2017 article — Warm Data[6] — a quote:

Science, the systematic pursuit of knowledge, is at the centre of the post-trust, post-truth meltdown.

It appears that information as a product of knowledge, is now on trial.

Every research study it would appear, is perforated with holes of distrust and met with counter evidence. Research bias and funding-based conflicts of interest have undermined public confidence in scientific research results, even though good research remains the best (and only) possible way forward as we look for ways to reduce our negative impact on the world around us. Subsequent public confusion and division is resulting in binary argument fueled by information that has been derived without the complexity required to actually make sense of it contextually.

What she is highlighting are the limits to Logic, Reductionism , Cause-Effect, Prediction, Knowing, Truth , Certainty and Abstraction in a world of Complexity.

We are agents in the world we inhabit.

We are interconnected and interdependent[7].

We are in a state of quantum entanglement[8] with Reality.

As outlined in our earlier article — Collective Sensemaking[9]— Trust is a confident relationship into the unknown.

Without upgrading our tools and concepts[10] to navigate Reality[11] we are seeing the accelerated erosion of Trust in our Institutions and Society as our Mental Structure forms of consciousness — a classical model of the world [12]— collides with — Quantum Reality.

We risk becoming seasick everyday[13].

Another quote from the Warm Data article:

But that safety has been contaminated, along with our trust in the institutions that are supposed to provide truth and justice. How can science evolve to contribute to greater trustworthiness of our socio-economic institutions?

How can sense be made of this tangle?

Part of the problem is that, globally, nationally and personally, we face crises that can be described as “complex” or “wicked” problems.

Complexity is recognisable in situations which have multiple variables in ever shifting contexts of interdependency.

Some examples of complex living systems are oceans, cities, families, economic systems, culture, the health of our own bodies, and the medical systems we expect to support them.

In each of these systems, vitality is produced by multiple processes in contextual interaction.

US Evolutionary Theoretical Biologist Prof. Stuart Kauffman has also highlighted the limits of “knowing”, reason and logic in our world.

In our earlier article — Emergence…[14] — we highlighted the phenomena of — The Adjacent Possible — which was eloquently captured by the quote from US writer Steven Johnson as:

The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself…[the adjacent possible] captures both the limits and the creative potential of change and innovation…

Given the shear scale of mathematical permutations possible in evolutionary biology through simply combining the 20 biological amino acids to form strings of proteins, it is literally impossible for us to know and accurately predict our future evolutionary pathways — in other words — The future by its very nature is uncertain…[15]

An emergent phenomena.

A quote from Prof. Stuart Kauffman:

The evolving biosphere is creating the possibilities until which it will flow, its an unfolding, its creating its own possibilities for its future evolution…

In his fourth book — Reinventing the Sacred:The science of complexity and the emergence of a natural divinty [16]— Chapter 10— Breaking the Galilean Spell — he begins to present what has become known as the “screwdriver argument” [17] through asking a simple question — What are all the things that you could do with a screwdriver (ie. a tool, a form of technology) at this point of time?

The answer is essentially the number of uses is indefinite (not finite or infinite).

The ramifications of which are profound — it implies no algorithm, no rule, no heuristic can envisage all the current and future possibilities of the screwdriver.

Its uses are not algorithmic.

Technological evolution and the evolution of the biosphere is unpresatable.

Just as Newton became the death knell for the belief in God and for a non-epiphenominal mind[18] — the beginning of a +300 year period in history where an almost universal embracement of a causal view of Reality was embraced (the Rational Mind) — 2 major revolutions in the form of Quantum Mechanics and more recently, The Adjacent Possible — are highlighting that the emergent and evolution of life (incl. ideas, innovation, technology, economy etc…) in our biosphere is governed by no law at all. It’s non algorithmic (i.e. not a heuristic) but an emergent phenomena….

This has profound implications for how we perceive and navigate the nature of Reality in the 21st Century.

Once again it is highlighting the limits of knowing, the need to develop Negative Capability [19], the importance of humility [20], curiosity, embracing uncertainty, seeking diversity of perspectives, and learning to learn [21] .

The importance of Perception & Abduction as opposed to Reason.

The importance of Sensemaking [22] & Emergence as opposed to Causation.

The importance of Experience , Agency and Context as opposed to Abstraction.

The importance of Complexity[23] as opposed to Reductionism.

The importance of Synthesis & Systasis as opposed to Analysis.

The importance of Narratives & Patterns[24] as opposed to Logic & Facts.

The importance of Probability & Paradox[25] as opposed to the Binary.

The importance of Uncertainty as opposed to Certainty.

Its highlighting our innate Human Condition[26].

A recognition of the limits of logic (Godel)[27], reason , cause-effect, computation, determinism and the limits of reductionism in a dynamic, complex and uncertain world…

Mental World – Reductionism – and – Abstraction – is enabled by the Symmetries in our Material World – a concept at the core of Formal Logic & Reason – However – The breaking of those Symmetries is Emergence – The Adjacent Possible – Knightian Uncertainty – of our Material World

There are – Limits to Logic – and – there are – Limits to Reductionism – More is different – in an emergent Material World


[1] The Age of Enlightenment — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment

[2] Scientific Method — https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/scientific-method/

[3] The Reality Gap — https://medium.com/@rlschutte/the-reality-gap-74da0e5e869a

[4] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logic#Formal_logic

[4a] How Aristotle Created the Computer — https://a16z.com/2017/08/01/how-aristotle-created-the-computer-atlantic/

[5] The Beetle Paradox… — https://medium.com/@rlschutte/the-beetle-paradox-af5172e315eb

[6] Warm Data — https://norabateson.wordpress.com/2017/05/28/warm-data/

[7]No Organisation is an Island… — https://medium.com/@rlschutte/no-organisation-is-an-island-bc0475039af6

[8] The Age of Entanglement… — https://medium.com/@rlschutte/the-age-of-entanglement-556de9318378

[9] Collective Sensemaking — https://medium.com/@rlschutte/collective-sensemaking-90826d1cb007

[10] To Live is to Flow… — https://medium.com/@rlschutte/to-live-is-to-flow-eaf8ad4ccec

[11] The Reality Gap — https://medium.com/@rlschutte/the-reality-gap-74da0e5e869a

[12]When Two Worlds Collide… — when-two-worlds-collide-645e95bbfba7

[13] If you don’t become the ocean you’ll be seasick every day… — https://medium.com/@rlschutte/if-you-dont-become-the-ocean-you-ll-be-seasick-every-day-25034bfa44ac

[14] Emergence… — https://medium.com/@rlschutte/emergence-936c096422a5

[15] The future by its very nature is uncertain… — https://medium.com/@rlschutte/the-future-by-its-very-nature-is-uncertain-823a7abae5ab

[16]Reinventing the Sacred:The science of complexity and the emergence of a natural divinty — https://journal.emergentpublications.com/article/a-review-of-reinventing-the-sacred-a-new-view-of-science-reason-and-religion/

[17]125 — Stuart Kauffman on Physics, Life, and The Adjacent Possible — https://shows.acast.com/futurefossils/episodes/125

[18]Must God Be Dead? Reinventing the Sacred — https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14746700.2017.1335070?src=recsys&journalCode=rtas20

[19]Negative Capability — https://medium.com/@rlschutte/negative-capability-f3bf749a87ec

[20]Humility is truth and the sea of ignorance… — https://medium.com/@rlschutte/humility-is-truth-and-the-sea-of-ignorance-c289112cbd57

[21]Some thoughts on the knowledge age, leadership, management & skills … — https://medium.com/@rlschutte/some-thoughts-on-the-fourth-industrial-revolution-leadership-management-skills-f8abab420929

[22]Sensemaking, the core skill for the 21st Century… — https://medium.com/@rlschutte/sensemaking-the-core-skill-for-the-21st-century-ebc8c679cfe8

[23]The Complexity Void… — https://medium.com/@rlschutte/unbundling-complexity-503c77f0b261

[24]The Power of Patterns… — the-power-of-patterns-e1dc4c2352aa

[25]The Beetle Paradox… — https://medium.com/@rlschutte/the-beetle-paradox-af5172e315eb

[26] The map is not the territory… — https://medium.com/@rlschutte/the-map-is-not-the-territory-fe641788579d

[27]Gödel and the limits of logic — https://plus.maths.org/content/goumldel-and-limits-logic

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