At the heart of PNT theory, one finds the 3C’s: complexity, chaos, and contradictions. Complexity is a property of certain systems distinguished from those that are simple or just complicated. In simple systems, things tend to be deterministic and have a direct cause and effect relationship. A complicated system may require more variable to control and manage it. Old fashioned mechanical clocks, for example, are a good example of a simple system; engineering, which requires more than six variables, is often seen as a complicated system. Complex systems present us with a totally different phenomenon. There is no unique definition of complexity in science; different disciplines have their own specific delineations.
IN THE CONTEXT OF PNT, COMPLEXITY IS CHARACTERIZED BY A PLETHORA OF INDEPENDENT PARTS INTERACTING WITH EACH OTHER IN A GREAT MANY WAYS—IN ESSENCE, A RANGE OF INPUTS AND OUTPUTS.
Complex systems have two essential features: they have substantial uncertainties that cannot be managed as ‘risks’; and they have a multiplicity of legitimate perspectives. When a complex system consists of networks, in which independent parts are connected and interact with each other, it can generate positive feedback: a loop mechanism that amplifies things substantially. A complex, networked system is full of uncertainties, multiple perspectives, and prone to turbulent behavior that can sometimes results in chaos. Climate, organisms, ecosystems, social organizations and human cultures, the brain, health delivery services are examples of complex systems.
Chaos, then, is the second force. We are using chaos in the strict sense of Chaos Theory. It is also worth appreciating that chaos does not imply randomness. Chaos is the outcome of great many independent variables interacting in many different ways in a networked complex system. Small perturbations in the system can lead to big consequences – the so-called ‘the Butterfly effect’. Such systems have the ability to balance order and chaos. This balancing point is called the edge of chaos: it is where the system is in a kind of suspended animation between stability and total dissolution into turbulence.
AT THE EDGE OF CHAOS, COMPLEX SYSTEM CAN COLLAPSE OR SELF-ORGANIZE INTO A NEW ORDER. THE POTENTIALITY FOR SYSTEMS TO MOVE TOWARD COLLAPSE OR MUTATE HAS MUCH TO DO WITH THE DEGREE AND SEVERITY OF CONTRADICTIONS.
Contradictions are the third driving force of PNT. A complex system has many positions that are logically inconsistent, and complex systems at the edge of chaos even more so. Contradictions, which are irreconcilable views and perspectives, cannot be resolved: they can only be transcended. In other words, contradictions have to be synthesized and necessitate the formulation of a new position that incorporates most of the various different positions. Contradiction often provide the first signs that a system is moving towards complexity, chaos and eventually postnormality.
Complexity, Chaos, and Contradictions are the 3Cs of Postnormal Times.
For more on the 3C’s, consult the Essentials section.