There’s a certain category of book that talks not about factual events or information, but about vibes – ways in which to think about the world, archetypes that slightly tweak your inner neural predictor rather than create a hard decision boundary. This is definitely one of them. Also, it’s super meme, which makes it even better.
The vibes that this book espouses:
Complex systems are all around us. They’re watching you. Right now.
Nonlinear causality. Simple or “obvious” interventions are likely to backfire in the worst way possible. People usually think in linear cause-and-effect, but in fact the real world often operates counterintuitively and according to nonlinear causality.
Intrasystem goals. Systems will take on their own goals, and they will conspire against you. A performance management system is likely to backfire because of unavoidable distortion of incentives (instead of working, I’m writing my performance review or OKRs).
Winning. In very obscure edge cases, you can gain an upper hand on the system and win. No easy trick is given for this, likely because the solution requires a bundle of good heuristics rather than an expert rule. However, it’s often easier to win when you arrange things such that victory becomes the default path rather than requiring effort, like a gravity assist versus a direct transfer maneuver.
I’d like to read more books that espouse vibes rather than facts, especially books that support vibes by giving a diversity of examples like this one.
COMPLICATED SYSTEMS SELDOM EXCEED FIVE PERCENT EFFICIENCY.
Harvard Law of Animal Behavior: Under precisely controlled experimental conditions, a test animal will behave as it damn well pleases.
Am I, unbeknownst to myself, a Systems-person? The answer is always, Yes. The relevant question is simply, Which System?
A COMPLEX SYSTEM DESIGNED FROM SCRATCH NEVER WORKS AND CANNOT BE MADE TO WORK. YOU HAVE TO START OVER, BEGINNING WITH A WORKING SIMPLE SYSTEM.
In brief, there can be NO SYSTEM WITHOUT ITS OBSERVER and NO OBSERVATION WITHOUT ITS EFFECTS.
related books and media
- The Mythical Man-Month (complex systems from the lens of software project management)
- Air Crash Investigation (complex causes of clearly obvious failures)
- Complexity theory in general, probably