With the amoebic orientation of political, scientific, economic and social realms in the past 100 years, the structural transformation of the four have been revolutionary and thorough. However, amidst this continual variable what remained constant throughout has been the behavioral pattern of the mankind.
Those in power remain skin-deep while the one on the periphery go round in circles as ‘The Lost Generation’. The wedlock of international crisis and the ceaseless national conundrums serve to be a clear manifestation of a new world which is ‘complex’ than the 1920s.
The mechanizations of the world and the domains therein can be credibly explained through the science of Complex Systems. It is important, rather, critical for individuals in every field of life to understand the nuances of these systems and beware of their highly complex nature. Working to improve one variable(s) (human behavior) can result in a serious loss of other variable(s).
As Jawaharlal Nehru said in his book ‘The Glimpses of World History’, “History is like a vast ocean which hides as much as it reveals. It moves with many feet, and at different rates. It is often difficult to know in which direction it is moving or what is happening on its farther shores.”
Before we move ahead it is instructive to note some basic principles of complex systems:
1 - Complex systems can be physical, biological and/or social. The overall characteristic and pattern of behavior of them is determined by the way the variables interact with each other: steam and ice are made from same molecules but behave differently. This is called the Emergent Property which means “that is not a property of any component of that system, but is still a feature of the system as a whole”.
2 - They are non-linear. It means that a seemingly insignificant incident can cause an extraordinary effect.
3 - They have feedback loops that, once set in motion, are almost impossible to reverse. For instance, we cannot go back to the old ways of living to reduce our anthropogenic emissions as doing that would incur financial loss in trillions of dollars and also affecting millions of lives.
4 - These systems carry a high degree of interdependence and we cannot always see the whole extent and depth of it. Recall that despite extraordinary growth in technology and data sciences, no one (or very few) could see the collapse of Lehman Brothers or more recently that of Silicon Valley Bank.
We can also look at Robert Musil’s, the famous Austrian writer, idea of centipede. In one of his famous essays titled ‘On Stupidity,’ Musil wrote about a centipede that was asked how it coordinated the movement of its many legs. The centipede was unable to answer the question and subsequently found itself unable to move.
That is symptomatic of the fact that it becomes really hard to understand causation in these systems. This also underlines the importance of bigger picture thinking when looking at complex systems.
With the constant change in the complex system, the moral dilemma weaved in the human behavior remains the same. The humans continue to contribute less in terms of empathy hence the need of maximizing goodness in the community seems to be a dream.
As mentioned in a Harvard Business Review article, Homo sapiens emerged on the Savannah Plain some 200,000 years ago, yet according to evolutionary psychology, people today still seek those traits that made survival possible then: an instinct to fight furiously when threatened, for instance, and a drive to trade information and share secrets.
Human beings are, in other words, hardwired. You can take the person out of the Stone Age, evolutionary psychologists contend, but you can’t take the Stone Age out of the person.
Evolutionary psychologists suggest that there are three reasons why humans have not experienced further evolution despite the significant changes in the world.
Firstly, humans became so dispersed across the planet around 50,000 years ago that any new beneficial genetic mutations were unable to spread.
Secondly, there has been no consistent new environmental pressure that has required further evolution, such as drastic changes in weather or food supply.
Thirdly, 10,000 years is not a sufficient amount of time for significant genetic modifications to be established across the population. Therefore, according to evolutionary psychologists, while the world has undergone significant changes, human beings have not evolved in response.
While efforts have been made to promote empathy and compassion, there is still much work to be done. As we continue to evolve as a society, it is essential that we prioritize building empathy and compassion, in order to emotionally and psychologically survive the brunt of the contemporary world.
If we narrow down the magnifier of analysis to the silhouette of Pakistan, we will see that with so much development in the socio-economic framework, what sustains is the ethnic divide, social polarization & alarming rates of crime.
Therefore, in order to nurture the empathetic sensory of individuals we should normalize and promote enrolling in the courses that are already being offered, such as ‘Empathy for self & others’, ‘Empathy and Emotional Intelligence at Work’ and ‘Empathy & Emotion in Policymaking’.
Even in a course like ‘Design Thinking’, design revolves around the nucleus of Empathy that sets the stage for a functional design that in return can serve a particular purpose for a specific audience.
“People ignore design that ignores people.” — Frank Chimero, author of The Shape of Design
The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners
The writer is an international energy and economic analyst. He works at Primary Vision Network — a US-based market intelligence and consultancy firm