Once upon a time, after the abacus, before computers and electronic calculators, was the slide rule. For the older amongst us, we may remember being introduced to the rituals and mysteries of its use. Although now it may seem ancient and crude, it was a revelation in accuracy and enabled breakthroughs in maths and engineering that changed the world. However, there was another thing that was memorable – the intimacy of it. There was a visceral relationship with crafting a solution with a slide rule that differed from the separation provided by a keyboard and algorithms. There was a certain poetry to it. I always felt connected to the solution.
As our economics and society move further across the scale from complicated to complex and tip over to increasing periods of chaos, I miss that relationship. Instead, I sense people making decisions on information provided by processes they (nor we) fully understand. We were supposed to have learned that lesson during the financial crisis. But, instead, we are doubling down to pursue more growth of the type that has got us to now.
To address the challenges we face, I think we need a more comprehensive set of tools. We are beyond the complicated logic, into the mysteries and infinite uncertainties of complex and chaotic disruption.
Where we now need sensitivities to relationships, poetry, philosophy, and reflection married to action. When in parallel, we have banks recording record profits whilst politicians avoid COP26 and parents are selling their children for food in Afghanistan, we are beyond embarrassment. What part of this do we not understand?
We have to feel our way into solutions we are connected to. We are way, way, beyond following the numbers and being guided by science. That is what algorithms do, Are we happy with that?