The Arch. of Complexity, the points that resonate

the points that resonate

Herbert Simon’s The Architecture of Complexity is the text I keep returning to when reflecting backwards and forwards

  1. Complex systems are Hierarchic
  2. Hierarchic systems evolve from Stable subsystems
  3. And have the property of Near Decomposability
  4. Which simplifies the Description of complex systems

(1) Hierarchic systems are subsystems within subsystems, parts within parts. The content may change but the theme is the same.

Personally, this reflects my own projects of: how to structure teams, how to manage that which I find of value, and how to think about the next thing

(2) Herb Simon writes of stable subsystems boosting evolution, and of problem solving as natural selection. 

Problem solving is selective trial and error. Cues signalling progress play the same role as stable intermediate forms. The indication of progress spurs further search in a specific direction. A strong reminder to self when feeling mired in error. It’s just a trial, yo.

(3) Near Decomposability is a property of hierarchic systems where interactions are weak but not negligible. For greater stability, relationships *within* subsystems should be stronger than those *among*.

In the short run, the behavior of each component is approx. independent of the others. In the long run, the behavior of any one component depends only in an aggregate way on the behavior of the others. 

How might today’s / this month’s / this year’s efforts be more successful, if I paid attention to the structure of among vs. within?

(4) Near Decomposability also simplifies the description of systems; only aggregate properties enter the description of interaction. This ↘️ of redundancy helps find the simple pattern: Process descriptions stand in for state descriptions.

By substituting process descriptions for state ones, what new clues might I find?

“By recoding, the redundancy that is present but unobvious in the structure can be made patent… Replacing a description of the time path with a description of a differential law that generates that path.”

through the perspective of my {BLANK}

I was combing through blog drafts when I found this. Originally written at the end of 2019. How times of changed! It is now Fall of 2020. And yet, the approach still crisply resonates.

This essay continues to fuel my thinking, even through 2019, 2020. How?

A. Determining a project’s proper composition of teams or cadence of communication benefits from Near Decomposability. How to orchestrate projects– among vs within– to ensure broader projects are most successful.

B. I may not be able to do everything I can dream of (I dream a lot!)– but if I can make some progress in the span of the ND components that carry meaning for me, that creates stability that feels satisfying.

(This realization has been especially helpful this year… a year that feels torn between prime “me time” and prime family time.)

C. When thinking about new projects– what is redundant in the system? Which details don’t matter in the aggregate? (And which definitely do?)

Which simple patterns generate the desired path?

Art by Wu Guanzhong