Tuesday 27 November 2012

How to simplify over-complex systems


[Following from http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/the-pyramid-of-technology-and-of.html ]

In the long run, institutions cannot be more complex than the understanding of their leaders; thus, because the intelligence of leaders has declined, institutional complexity must reduce.

But the complexity must be reduced by great individual (specific human) reformers building-up complexity from core principles which they can understand

- and not therefore by condensation of the complexity into simplified general schemata (however this condensation might be attempted, by whatever means - currently usually statistical).

Building-up is the only thing that works because it preserves core functionality.


A positive example of what must happen was the method by which the complexity of Christianity was reduced by The Reformation, while preserving 'functionality' (salvation).

Since the Christian tradition had become so corrupt in the West, the religion was simplified to scriptural principles (by the inspired work of individual geniuses) and re-built from that base.


But the many recent institutional simplifications I have experienced professionally in education and health services have been damaging failures, precisely because they fail to preserve core functionality.

(e.g. Health service 'reforms' which severely damage the doctor-patient relationship and impose government objectives; teaching 'reforms' which reduced the amount of teaching and increase class sizes; college admission 'reforms' which impose inverse discrimination; research 'reforms' like peer review and research evaluation systems, which punish truth-seeking and truth-speaking.)

The failure to preserve core functionality is denied and lied about, and core function is redefined and redefined ('mission statements'); but the destruction is real, of course.  



Boethius said...

Lower complexity implies less rituals?

balthassar said...

Is it just me or have you become much more explicitly Protestant over the past year or thereabouts? Either in your actual beliefs or perhaps it is only a change in the content you choose to present.

If there is any hope of salvaging existing political or social institutions of any middling or large scale in the West I agree that a de-scaling needs to happen beforehands. But it seems that things just keep getting larger and brittler.

Bruce Charlton said...

@b - as an Anglican I am both Catholic and Protestant (ideally) - and I regard Eastern Orthodoxy (under an Orthodox Monarch) as the highest form Christianity ever achieved.

Meanwhile back in 21 Century England...

Yes, I am indeed more Protestant in my practice than I used to be - I used to go mainly to frequent short Masses at a traditional ('High') Anglo-Catholic Church, but now I go mainly to a Conservative Evangelical Anglican church.

balthassar said...

Yes I have been following your blog for a long while, mostly just as a reader, so I know your self-description. Thanks for satisfying my curiosity, I suspected something along the lines of what you have revealed.

Bruce Charlton said...

@B - I am trying to follow the Mere Christianity advice I have given to people who asked - which is NOT to be guided mainly by denomination or style (so long as you believe the denomination to be a real and valid Christian one, where salvation is possible), by trying to choose the best specific *church*, with the best priest or pastor. And be prepared to change if this changes, and the teaching becomes false.

josh said...

Are you sure the Reformation preserved functionality? Admittedly, their were many great men responsible, but Plato was a great man, and he would have reduced the polity to an unworkable communism.

For one thing, hasn't there been a steady decline in real Christianity, perhaps beginning earlier, but certainly accelerating with the Reformation?

Also, was not the Eucharist at the center of the Church founded by Christ? Isn't losing the physical presence of Christ a loss of core functionality? Or what about the loss of heirarchy? How can Shepherds not be distinct from their flocks? Didn't this Democratization inevitably lead to flattery, and soft soap Christianity?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Josh "Are you sure the Reformation preserved functionality?"

Yes - I am sure.

"steady decline in real Christianity, perhaps beginning earlier, but certainly accelerating with the Reformation?"

It would, of course, have been far better if the church had reformed without schism - but both sides did reform after schism and there was a great increase in devoutness, for a while...

wrt the Eucharist - I believe in the real presence, and in an ideal world I would participate in a short Mass every day; but I also believe in salvation without sacraments - it is harder, but I'm sure it happens, and often.

As history moves towards its close, corruption accumulates, and much that was possible becomes impossible. Byzantium finally fell in 1917. There seem to be no Saints in the West. The Catholic Magisterium sides with secular modernity against the Tridentine Mass and SSPX - and so on.

In such a context it may be that evangelical Protestantism may the highest form of Christianity in some places and at some times and for some individuals.