Theory(ish)

Indeterminate complex uncertain life

It would seem to me that at least some of the uncertainty that I experience in life comes not from complication but from indeterminacy.

For example, I love both sushi and pizza. Simple preferences. No lack of information involved, I’m telling you: I dig them both! But put me in front of two restaurants selling each, a simple situation, and even I don’t know which one I’ll pick. Put me in front of many such restaurants, however, the choice does not get much harder because for me the real difficult question is what to eat, not where. Hence, the 2-restaurant scenario is simple and indeterminate. Extremely uncertain, even for me. The n-restaurant scenario, however, whilst more complicated, is also not much more indeterminate. Therefore, also not much more uncertain.

Hence, uncertainty can arise in both simple and complicated situations. Ergo, uncertainty is not solely the result of complexity. Unless,  of course, we are now willing to call simple things complex just because we have conflated the terms complexity and uncertainty so much that we cannot even remember the differences.

Clearly, we need to have a talk about the meaning of all these words (simple, complicated, complex, indeterminate, uncertain).

A most needed discussion it seems because, if uncertainty in politics and economics results solely from complexity, information is all we need. But maybe, and only maybe, complexity is blinding us from admitting to ourselves that the real challenge of uncertainty lies much below.

Photo by Niklas Rhöse on Unsplash.