Thursday, 19 February 2015


Every life is a series of coincidences. Nothing happens that is not rooted in coincidence. All great changes find their cause in coincidence.
Arnold Bennett - The Card (1911)

There are obvious issues with the complexities of daily life. On all scales too. From cooking a meal to international politics, the unexpected always seems to be looking over our shoulders. Saw a near miss on the road today for example. One guy didn't expect the other guy to cross his path while he was doing fifty.

I don’t think we have a good handle on complexity, especially our ability to make collective decisions on complex issues. There are too many cases where vested interests grab the narrative and common sense is elbowed into  a lonely ditch.

So back to Bennett. Imagine life as a vastly complex bundle of threads where each thread is a series of connected events. Sometimes two threads come into contact and their interacting events spin off a series of new threads. Sometimes they don’t come into contact at all even though it may have seemed likely that they would. Like cars on a busy road.

It is usually impossible to predict if events will touch or not. When they do it seems like chance, misfortune, good luck or the inevitable outcome of favoured forces. The latter occurs when partial hindsight casts its eye over what happened.

To a large extent Bennett was right. New and unforeseen situations dump on us from clear blue skies when we least expect them. Yet politics is based on the unspoken notion that enormously complex events can be predicted by superior people.

Elect me and we’ll put things right.

Strewth. Or even strewth with exclamation marks!! It’s a mind-bogglingly naive message isn’t it? Goes against all we know of them and all we know of complexity yet we waste millions of votes on the lying creeps. We could vote for folk who try to think things through from a position of humility, but on the whole we don't.

So some things are predictable. Voting behaviour for one.


Demetrius said...

At one time the Monarch would call a Parliament to advise and agree taxes and form a government. This is now an old, unreliable and clumsy way of doing things. Perhaps the Monarch should now put out the job to tender.

Anonymous said...

I suppose most people react to things from their own perspective and ignore those threads they think don't matter. Perhaps those 'big data' computers might take account of all the threads - or perhaps not. Printing out 'don't know' will not keep the funding going.

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - it may come to that.

Roger - yes we are bound to focus on what we think matters. What matters to us of course.