Jean Piaget a 20th Century Swiss psychologist known for his work on child development shaped a theory that combined cognitive development with the qualitative development of knowledge that placed great importance on the education of children.
In 1934 he declared that:
“ Only education is capable of saving our societies from possible collapse, whether violent or gradual”…
As our Universe expands, the array of small scale particles that have large scale properties (systems) increase.
Complexity is essentially the difficulty in describing and understanding these large scale systems.
As this complexity increases Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development of humans to acquire new knowledge and “learn how to learn” is one of the ways in which we begin to make sense of this complexity in order for us to navigate this increasingly “white-water” world.
According to John Seely Brown, John Hagel and Esko Kilpi “learning how to learn” to generate new knowledge to solve customer & community problems will be central to our future prosperity and capacity to navigate the Knowledge Age.
Or as 20th Management Consultant Peter Drucker once said:
“ knowledge has to be improved, challenged and increased constantly or it vanishes”…
More recently, French Computer Scientist Jean-Louis Dessalles and a group of researchers in their study of human language provided an important contribution to how Humans make sense of complexity.
Simplicity Theory is anchored in the idea that Humans perception is highly sensitive to any drops in complexity and our awareness is raised whenever any situation appears “too simple”.
Our cognition is wired to detect changes and shifts in complexity.
Our minds are “Pattern Recognition” machines.
Patterns allow us to remove information (essentially compress data[12a]) in order to simplify complexity.
Patterns are in essence – “complexity voids”…
A void in complexity is the signature of intelligence.
“Coincidences” in our day to day experiences, like magic, are “complexity illusions”.
“Analogies”, “jargon” and “language” are relevant categories we develop to make sense of our world.
“No thought can be formed that isn’t informed by the past; or, more precisely, we think only thanks to analogies that link our present to our past”…
― Douglas R. Hofstadter
Dr Ben Hunt, the chief investment strategist at Salient launched the online newsletter Epsilon Theory in 2013 in his attempt to make sense of global financial markets — a complex evolving system.
The impetus came from the increasing role that Governments and Central Banks have played in our financial and economic systems in response to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.
More and more these markets no longer represent the “free-flow” of information of generative capitalism in our human attempts to quantify uncertainty (ie. Risk) and the nature of Reality.
In his Manifesto released on the 1 June 2013 he stated that:
“our times require an investment & risk management perspective that is fluent in econometrics, but is equally fluent in game theory, history and behavioural analysis”…
The name “Epsilon” essentially represented a further variable (alongside alpha & beta) in modern portfolio theory that is increasingly reshaping financial markets and our perceptions of Reality.
The “Epsilon” being the “sea of ignorance” and the “ocean of un-knowledge”.
Patterns, narratives and stories are at the core of making sense of this complexity and Epsilon variable.
Israel Professor Yuval Noah Harari in his recent book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century outlines how Humans have always been a “post-truth” species in order for us to simplify complexity and make sense of the world.
We have always told ourselves “stories”.
“Homosapiens is a post-truth species whose power depends on creating and believing fictions.
Ever since the stone-age, self reinforcing myths have served to unite “human collectives”….
… “We are the only mammal that can co-operate with numerous strangers because we invent fictional stories, spread them and convince millions of others to believe in them. As long as everybody believes in the same fiction we all obey the same laws, and thereby co-operate effectively”…
By understanding this observation it is apparent that if we want to change the world we essentially need to change the stories we tell and be prepared to revisit our “truths” and “beliefs” in our ongoing search for knowledge and navigating Reality.
Human Abstraction and Inference such as causation & correlation have also been central to this journey.
Uncovering new types of information that may have causal power was at the core of the Age of Reason, driving the Industrial and Scientific Revolution.
It transformed our societies, challenged our “truths” and “beliefs” and resulted in “new stories” emerging in order to make sense of our world.
In the 21st Century a further profound shift is underway, one no longer solely based off reductive abstraction (deduction) but of patterns (induction) and semantic interrelationships & interdependencies (abduction).
A shift beyond Classical Binary Reductionism to Quantum Entanglement & Relationships.
“Deep understanding of causality sometimes requires the understanding of very large patterns and their abstract relationships and interactions, not just the understanding of microscopic objects interacting in microscopic time intervals” …
― Douglas R. Hofstadter
The emergence of new computational pattern recognition machines and systems (eg. Ai, Neural Networks and Machine Learning) that can detect changes in complexity.
Similar to the Age of Enlightenment it has the potential to once again challenge our perception of reality, “truths” and “beliefs” and the “stories we tell”.
Whether its “learning how to learn”, new knowledge creation, problem-solving, collaboration, embracing cognitive diversity, asking better questions or embracing the new tools of Ai for pattern recognition (correlation) or the existing tools of scientific method & Aristotelian Formal & Symbolic Logic for causation – human sensemaking is at the core of 21st century complexity navigation.
In closing, it is important that we maintain in Leadership our vulnerability (embracing the “unknown” and “negative capability” ), psychological flexibility (“hegelian dialectic”), humility & curiosity in our journey to navigate the prevailing state of Reality.
A final profound and important quote from Quantum Physicist Richard Feynman on the limitations of “navigating complexity” given we inhabit a complex interdependent System:
“If our small minds, for some convenience, divide this universe, into parts – physics, biology, astronomy, psychology, and so on – remember that nature does not know it”…
Welcome to the Age of Entanglement…
 — Piaget’s Theory and Stages of Cognitive Development — https://www.simplypsychology.org/piaget.html
 — Mystery of the Universe’s Expansion Rate Widens With New Hubble Data — https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2019/mystery-of-the-universe-s-expansion-rate-widens-with-new-hubble-data
 — Changing patterns of work and learning — Esko Kilpi — https://youtu.be/6cQdT5Z5xL8
 — Living/Learning/Leading in a White Water World — John Seely Brown — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ED9Ecv78CtU
 — Why learning how to learn (and unlearn) is the new competitive advantage — https://www.betterup.com/en-us/resources/blog/why-learning-how-to-learn-(and-unlearn)-is-the-new-competitive-advantage
 — The Untapped Opportunity: Rethinking Learning in the Work Environment | John Hagel — https://youtu.be/a7yb-sbKT_I
 — How to scale up learning — https://medium.com/@EskoKilpi/how-to-scale-up-learning-997fcbc12827
 — Socialogy Interview: Esko Kilpi — https://medium.com/work-futures/socialogy-interview-esko-kilpi-4a3da712a3bb
 — The New Society of Organizations — the-new-society-of-organizations — and — What Makes an Effective Executive — https://hbr.org/2004/06/what-makes-an-effective-executive
 — Jean-Louis Dessalles — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Louis_Dessalles
 — Simplicity Theory — https://simplicitytheory.telecom-paris.fr
 — Malcolm McLuhan — Pattern Recognition — https://youtu.be/zYR6Ekw8meg
[12a] — Hutter — Compression — http://www.hutter1.net/ai/
 — Analogy as the Core of Cognition — https://youtu.be/n8m7lFQ3njk
 — Surfaces and essences: Analogy as the fuel and fire of thinking — https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2011-29743-000
 — Epsilon Theory — https://www.epsilontheory.com/about-epsilon-theory/
 — Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk — https://www.wiley.com/en-au/Against+the+Gods%3A+The+Remarkable+Story+of+Risk-p-9780471295631
 — Greeks — https://www.investopedia.com/terms/g/greeks.asp
 — Humility is truth and the sea of ignorance… — https://richardschutte.medium.com/humility-is-truth-and-the-sea-of-ignorance-c289112cbd57
 — 21 Lessons for the 21st Century — https://www.penguin.com.au/books/21-lessons-for-the-21st-century-9781784708283
 — Enlightenment — enlightenment
 — What was the relationship of the Scientific Revolution to the Industrial? — https://rootsofprogress.org/relationship-of-the-scientific-and-industrial-revolutions
 — New Theory Cracks Open the Black Box of Deep Learning — https://www.quantamagazine.org/new-theory-cracks-open-the-black-box-of-deep-learning-20170921/
 — Sensemaking, the core skill for the 21st Century… — https://richardschutte.medium.com/sensemaking-the-core-skill-for-the-21st-century-ebc8c679cfe8
 — Negative Capability — https://richardschutte.medium.com/negative-capability-f3bf749a87ec
 — Hegel’s Dialectic — https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hegel-dialectics/
 — Richard Feynman — https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/1965/feynman/facts/