Doing Nothing LO27255

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 09/23/01

Replying to LO27236 --

Dear Organlearners,

John Dicus <> writes:

>At the outset I'd like to say that I don't necessarily
>hold to any viewpoints implied by my asking.
>Specifically, I mean that I don't hold to the notion
>of doing nothing. I'm simply curious and I'd like to
>hear your thoughts.

Greetings dear John,

Now you are into the fantastic spirit of a dialogue ("thoughts-
exchanging"). It is Sunday evening and I came to University to have a
quick peep at my email. As usual the LO-digests gripped my attention and
your questioning the most. I could not help but to reply and now my dear
wife will be mad at me for spending so much time here.

>It's hard to find the right words to ask this
>question, so this is the best I can muster.

Articulating tacit knowledge for the first time is usually a difficult

>When we look at extremely complex systems with
>high degrees of freedom and slowly unfolding
>patterns, we sometimes see events whose
>occurrence might seem irregular at first glance,
>but follow a pattern as yet undiscerned. An event
>(a condition reached...) might occur once every 25
>or 50 or 100 years, and then never again for quite
>a while.

You are right. But we will not know that an event is an
re-ocurring one until we ask the right questions such as
"when did it happened before"
" what was common to then and now".

>What would happen if one took the approach that
>doing nothing was the smart path in the aftermath
>of 09/11/01 since what occurred was the manifestation
>of a truly chaotic complex system, and that what
>happened will occur at the next appointed time
>regardless of the actions one might take?

The smartest path to follow is always to learn, even when doing nothing

I have learned a number things of reocurring events in complex systems.
First of all, there is no clock wise precision on the re- occuring of
events. Secondly, the next similar event is never exactly the same as the
previous event. Thirdly, the event can never be reversed afterwards,
although it can be avoided the next time by a suitable adaptation.
Fourthly, the event is always the result of the system interacting with a
vast network of systems in the environment. Fifthly, the more complexer
the system, the slower its response to any major event.

I wonder if this fifth observation is not what you had in mind? Let me
give an example. A fly is much less complex than an elephant. Wave your
hand and the fly will immediately fly away. The elephant will figure it
all out, perhaps taking a couple of minutes. When it then swings its great
ears to you, it tells you: "Take caution because I do not like what you
are doing." When it also lifts its trunk, it tells you "Ran away because I
am preparing for an attack depending on your next movement."

Elephants are not that bent on attacking. They are actually peace loving
creatures. They know that they are the most powerful of all animals so
that they do not try to show off how powerful they are. But elephants have
a remarkable memory. A person might have hurt an elephant dozens of years
ago and got away it. That person may have completely forgotten about the
incident, but the elephant never. When the elephant get that person in
sight, it will casually move closer until it is close by. Then, without
warning, it will charge at a speed which defies its collosal body. With
seconds it will struck the person down with its trunk, then piercing one
of its giant tusks several times through the body and finally trample the
body into a pulp.

Sometimes a elephant gets hurt by a wire snare which causes a septic
wound. Such an elephant then becomes like a "terrorist", a beast killing
every human in sight because of the pain which it suffers day and night.
Two things can now be done. Either kill the elephant as soon as possible
because its path of destruction will just continue. Or put the elephant
unconscious with an anaesthetic dart, remove the wire, clean the wound
with some ointment and then, after awakening the elephant, keep it away
from humans for a couple of months. As the wound heals and the pain
disappears, the elephant becames normal again in most cases. Just as it
knows that humans have caused the pain, it knows that humans have taken
the pain away too.

As for the tragic event of 11 September, I think it is most important to
place that event in the widest context possible so as to learn what its
full meaning is. After almost two weeks something is happening which I do
not like because it has happened many times here in South Africa too. It
merely injcreased the spiral of violence and destruction.

Up to the first week most people try to understand the full meaning of the
event. But initial schock makes it difficult. Furthermore, as they become
aware just how complex the event is, they stop questioning the event so as
to learn from it. It is then when the experts take over, each claiming
from his/her own speciality what retaliation will be required. Only when
looking at all the expert opinions together will an authentic learner
discover what they have in common -- respond to destruction with
destruction. I myself have learned that when the only reponse capable to a
destructive attack is a destructive response, it is better "doing

I have written about two "laws" of complexity in the past -- the LRC (Law
of Requisite Complexity) and the LSC (Law of Singularity of Complexity.)
There is also a third law which we perhaps may call the Law of Temporality
of Complexity (LTC). The LTC entails on the one hand that the complexer a
system becomes, the longer it takes (measured from a very early point in
time) for any new property to emergence at a ridge of chaos. This "one
hand" is the "integral viewpoint".

I will try to depict it on a diagram. The O means "origin of time".
. Simple system
O ---- A --- B -- C - D
. Complex system
O ----------------AA ------------ BB -------- CC ---- DD
The length ( number of "-" characters) from O to D or O to DD
indicates the time needed for D or DD to emerge. In the above
two digrams it takes four times as long for the complex system
to have four emergences than for the simple system.

If only learners could bear that facet of the LTC in mind. Understanding a
simple system takes a short time while understanding a complex system
takes a long time. I envision in the tragic events of 11 September a most
complex event.

The LTC entails also on the other hand something else which I find
difficult to describe in a few lines. So let me use the diagram above,
hoping that it made sense there.
O ----------------AA ------------ BB -------- CC ---- DD
The time from each present emergence to next one is usually (more
than) half less than than the time from a past emergence to the present
emergence. This "other hand" is the "differential viewpoint".

The "integral viewpoint" and the "differential viewpoint" is to each
other as knowledge and learning is to each other. It takes longer times
for complex knowledge to emerge, but shorter times for complex
learning to happen. That is why I have written in the beginning:
. The smartest path to follow is always to learn,
. even when doing nothing else.
Nobody can afford the time lost in not learning. Its like running a long
distance race. Any runner falling back will have to come up with a
super effort to catch up with the rest of the runners in front.

Any learner who fails to take the LRC, LSC and LTC into account, is in for
great tribulations.

With care and best wishes,


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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