Embracing Uncertainty

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And here’s a short(ish) quite from the renowned systems thinker Donella Meadows, which beautifully sums up the thinking behind this work:

“Self-organzing, non-linear feedback systems are inherently unpredictable. They are not controllable. They are understandable only in the most general way. The goal of foreseeing the future exactly and preparing for it perfectly is unrealizable. The idea of making a complex system do just what you want it to do can be achieved only temporarily, at best. We can never fully understand our world, not in the way that reductionist science has led us to expect…

Systems thinking leads to another conclusion, however – waiting, shining, obvious as soon as we stop being blinded by the illusion of control. It says there is plenty to do, of a different sort of ‘doing’. The future can’t be predicted, but it can be envisioned and brought lovingly into being. Systems can’t be controlled, but they can be designed and redesigned. We can’t surge forward with certainty into a world of no surprises, but we can expect surprises and learn from them and even profit from them. We can’t impose our will upon a system. We can listen to what the system tells us, and discover how its properties and our values can work together to bring forth something much better than could ever be produced by our will alone.

We can’t control systems or figure them out. But we can dance with them!”

Meadows, Donella (2001), Dancing with Systems, Whole Earth, Issue 106, pp. 58-63