The behavior of Complex Systems is difficult or even impossible to predict. This can be because the system is very sensitive to initial conditions, because the system itself changes and adapts, or because the behavior of the system cannot be described as the sum of the behaviors of its parts.
The Earth and Life are Complex Systems made up of a vast number of parts and elements that are interconnected in very complex ways. By comparison, a combat aircraft or even a space station are grossly simple and predictable. If almost any one of us were placed inside a combat airplane in flight and told to land it, the most likely outcome would be death. And the airplane is a simple system... Nobody in his/her right mind would dare play with the switches on the instrument panel of an airplane in mid flight without knowing exactly what effect that would have on the rest of the airplane's systems.
If an airplane is trivially simple when compared to Nature, it is naive and arrogant to think that we can manage our Ecosystem. Regardless of how much reductionist research is done, it is impossible to predict what will happen to an ecosystem when we introduce a genetically-modified organism or when we burn tons of fossil fuels.
We will design the Future by first ceasing to try to manage Complex Systems, and then by means of systemic interventions that respect and honor the nature and unpredictability of the global complex system.
A systemic approach takes into account the relationships among the parts of the system, between these and the system and between the system and its environment.
We don't solve problems but we redesign and intervene systems so that in the new systems the original problem becomes an opportunity. We don't believe in zero-sum and we believe that there is always a better alternative that aligns the stakeholders, always including Nature. Our skill is in finding these alternatives.
We believe that the pursuit of individual benefit is constructive when the whole system is taken into account, as well as the environmental and social costs. When we apply systems thinking, individual benefit aligns with collective benefit. When we apply reductionist thinking, individual benefit is opposed to the benefit of the system.
By abusing fossil fuels, exploiting and altering ecosystems, through a harmful chemistry and now also through genetic engineering, we are throwing out of balance the system that has supported life for nearly 4 billion years. The urgency of the situation is quite real. We have only one planet and we are ruining it rapidly. We are already witnessing the first symptoms of collapse in the form of climate change .
Humans lived for hundreds of thousands of years without destabilizing their ecosystem. In the last 10,000 years we began to have possible harmful effects on our environment, and only in the last 200 years have we had a very serious net negative impact. Access to ever-more powerful sources of energy has given us Humans the capacity to impact our environment to an unprecedented level. In the last decades we have come to believe that, as a species, we are capable of managing our environment. Yet, it is dangerously naive to think that we can manage a Complex System that has worked remarkably well for 4 billion years. We must stop trying to manage the global system and we must begin to intervene and redesign human systems so that they will adapt and conform to their environment.
This is the new challenge in the design of human systems and spaces.
THE FUTURE IS PROSPEROUS
HUMANS CAN BE A KEYSTONE SPECIES
TECHNOLOGY CAN COEXIST WITH NATURE
WE ARE IN A HURRY
NO ZERO SUM
DESIGN SYSTEMS BUT STOP ATTEMPTING TO MANAGE COMPLEX SYSTEMS