The Problem of Social Complexity

© 2015 Tom Rogers

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Some initial thoughts:

Society is complex. Two consequences that are in creative tension with each other:

(i). On the one hand...We should be wary of causal over-simplication. A dismissal of complexity can be a way for some people to shirk having to explain thngs properly. Good examples of this are ideological people who adopt overly-simple social explanations, especially when this involves blaming a single group. It is an unfortunate coincidence that this group is then held as responsible or in some way to blame for all negative things that happen in society.

(ii). On the other hand..It doesn't follow that simple causal explanations are inaccurate. Simplicity is not the same as simple-mindedness, and simplification is not always a sign of intellectual laziness: in fact, can be a sign of the opposite. In a complex world, brevity can be a virtue. Conversely, a dismissal of simplicity can sometimes be a way for some people to shirk having to explain things properly. It really might be the case that a tiny group of people is responsible for lots of the things that go wrong in society. The simplicity of the explanation does not invalidate it, and a tendency to dismiss or ridicule it just because it is simple or sounds like an arrant conspiracy theory is often an indication that critics find the explanation threatening.



An exchange with Knightmarez

In October 2015, I had an exchange with YouTuber, Knightmarez, on the topic of conspiracy theories and causation, which is of some relevance to this. This was prompted by comments of Knightmarez in a discussion with Millennial Woes:

Below are the comments (I have not bothered to edit any of this for typos, etc.):

TOM ROGERS:I think Knightmarez's theory about conspiracies works where generic conspiracies are concerned. The idea that there are infinite variables that can explain virtually any social phenomenon as long as the explanation is physically-consistent seems cogent to me. But the theory starts to break down when you get into event-specific criminal conspiracies - i.e. JFK assassination, 9/11, 7/7. Possibly you could accommodate the theory in these by arguing that even if, let's say, Zionists were not behind 9/11, they were one of the wider factors in it, and might even have influenced it, so they were part of a 'wider conspiracy' that set the scene for the criminal acts. But to say X or Y group influenced specific actions that led to the act is, I think, quite different and is what the conspiracy theorists are really getting at. Just because a group wanted something to happen, had a clear motive, and benefited, it does not follow that specific group were behind the acts that formed the conspiracy.

KNIGHTMAREZ:I can see where you are coming from. Ponder this, Does the equation help unravel the convoluted overlapping problems caused by multiple parties operating dynamic conspiracies simultaneously. Also, since there are more people than causes, one would expect the meta-gaming powers of political potent groups to be forced to focus their energies on specific plots involving specific people places locations etc.

TOM ROGERS:I think I understand what you are saying, but I suppose I would argue that as long as a conspiracy theory does have a rational basis (i.e. it accords with physical laws and is reasonably causative), then by definition it will (or should) unravel the equation. It might not be the full explanation, but I think when it comes to the finer matter of causation, it should be of assistance, even if it turns out to be untrue. To illustrate my understanding of this, I happen to think the official explanation (the official conspiracy theory, if you like) of 9/11 is more or less true, but I also think there is a rational basis for extending the theory into the actions and omissions of others who had responsibilities. It is not beyond the bounds of reason to speculate on the following possibilities - (i). that Israeli intelligence knew it was going to happen and allowed it to happen; or, (ii). Israel was directing the Al Quaeda operatives; or, (iii). U.S. security and intelligence services did not take sufficient preventative action; or, (iv). some combination of these. Other than (iii), I don't believe any of these theories are true myself, mainly because I have a very hard time believing that the relevant people in Israel and the United States would take the risk of getting caught - it would almost certainly leak - and while they are certainly very callous people who willingly engage in needless wars and so on, I don't believe they are so evil that they would launch a civilian terrorist attack of that scale and nature. It's just not realistic, but I accept that the speculation is rational and I know I could be wrong. However, the point is that even if one of those theories (or something similar) turns out to be true, it wouldn't change the fact that the proximate cause of 9/11 was the hijacking of planes by a group of named terrorists. Where I think your ideas have potential is in two areas: 1. First, even where an official conspiracy theory is demonstrably true, there will be slippage and a potential to explain things within a broader context. This is a point I've noticed that people seem to miss. Just because Zionists didn''t cause 9/11 in the direct sense, it doesn't follow that their deeper responsibility should be overlooked. In my opinion, the conspiracy theories that are put forward - whether it's blaming the government or Zionists or wealthy Jews or whatever - are poor substitutes for proper explanations about the world. In a way, you could say that the more naive conspiracy theories, as well as exercises in irrational conspiracising, exist to address emotional and psychological needs in certain people and are just a way to explain and understand the world in a very simple way without having to acknowledge the complexity and interconnectedness of global reality. 2. Second, you could say that all conspiracies are attributable in some way to broader forces in a complex society, which sounds a lot like a kind of chaos theory, and almost leads us to the Buddhist notion of an undulating spatial dimension, from which we can't discern any 'thing', and in which reality itself can be seen as a Zen-like singularity. Anyway, if you've made it this far, thanks - this is an interesting discussion. In fact, the whole topic of social complexity interests me.

KNIGHTMAREZ:I don't understand point '2', as the only knowledge of 'zen' i have is meditating as relaxing activity that brings health benefits. in terms of point '1'Think of the definitions of the groups described. Lets say mossad did get a tip about 9/11. Who got it, how many got it? If it's a handful of zionists is it not all of Judaism? Sort of? However, the zionists who wouldn't be aware of it would support it if they were aware of it for political reasons. What if it was infact a saudi attack, as they had planned to cost the USA billions in useless wars. How many of those people would need to be informed. A handful? The highest corridors of power are experienced in dealing with secrets and plots. Either a) they knew about it and collaborated together or b) neither side knew. One of the above (or neither) must be true. The equation doesn't claim to be able to solve these problems from your position, the 'truth' is that you will never know, and almost all successful conspiracies are never known about by definition. But, here is something that is observable. Humans in larger and larger groups generate greater potentials for larger and more numerous conspiracies to happen. A small town will have theft, wives cheating on husbands, poisoning, etc. The more people you have. Is it paranoid to believe that the Arabic slave trade of whites is alive and well? No. Infact it is absurd to think it doesn't still exist. What about the refugees having thousands of ISIS members? It would be absurd to think that isn't the case. It's not paranoia. It's calculation. The equation presented (although verbally) is a description of potential energy. It is like stating that gravity exists and acts upon objects, so therefore a rock is falling somewhere on earth. Since the earth is a big place, there are rocks of all sizes constantly falling across the surface of the earth. People forget how small they are and how big the planet is, or how incomprehensible the lives of 7billion humans are. One has to generalize or it becomes impossible to think. But not all generalization are equally accurate. Fuzzy logic is still logic. In the realms of exploring the games of others, overlapping fields of fuzzy logic create hot-spots of 'unproven-certainty'. It seems like a contradiction, but it is not. It's no different from a private investigator thinking '' that wife is cheating on her husband...so although i haven't proved it, i'll watch where she goes because i'm paid to. Oh look, she's going next door for 1 hour a day to the body building guy. i can see though the window.... (que porn scene) Yep, she's cheating on him" Is the investigator right only when they find the proof? Yes. But the 'hunch' is still a valid form of reasoning. Infact the hunch lead the investigator to the truth. Being systematic and mathematical about the 'hunches' is a form of logic. Global conspiracies for power-politics in civilizational warfare involves far FAR more moving parts than some woman being unfaithful.....but cannot be proven or dis-proven in such a simple manner as looking though the window at the right time.