The world is complex. It is composed of heavily interactive systems that modify themselves in response to events within both themselves and within the ‘external’ world.

As the world is complex, responsive and interactive, it is always in flux. It is never completely stable.

Such complex systems are not completely understandable, or replicable, by humans.

Such complex systems are not completely predictable. The further into the future you imagine, the less accurate your predictions are likely to be.

As a result of these factors, political or other actions are extremely likely to have unintended consequences.

There are several common responses to these unintended consequences.

  • a) Refusal to accept the unintended consequences.
  • b) Accept that other people’s policies can have unintended consequences but not yours, because yours are true.
  • c) Accept the unintended consequences, but say they are irrelevant to what you are doing.
  • d) Suggest that the unintended consequences have unpleasant political consequences and are therefore unreal or a plot.
  • e) Argue that because the world is complex we cannot be sure these events have anything to do with our actions. We must continue.
  • f) Accept the unintended consequences, but blame evil forces.
  • g) Refuse to accept the unintended consequences and still blame evil forces.
  • h) Recognise the problems, but claim the bugs are features.
  • i) Start to eliminate, or silence, those who are telling you about the unintended consequences.
  • j) Start to eliminate those who you blame as evil forces, even if they cannot be proven to have anything to do with it, and even if you deny the consequences are real.
  • k) Intensify the actions we are performing, because clearly we are not applying them strongly enough. The theory is correct therefor we are not being thorough. We are being weak.

These common responses simply make the trap harder to escape.

Ways out.

Do not assume that because you are well intentioned, the policies you favour must work, and the theories you hold must be correct.

Policies and theories are tools, to be discarded when shown not to work in the ways they are expected to work.

As the world is complex, try innovations in small relatively enclosed areas, to see what happens. Realise problems can change with scale of implementation. For example, small amounts of fracking can be relatively harmless, but small amounts of fracking seem to be impossible.

If we are plagued with problems, especially problems we did not have before our innovations, then investigate those problems, and see if we can ameliorate, end them, or use them. Do not ignore them or blame others.

Problems are information, and must be listened to, to understand what we are doing, and do it better.

Change our actions, listen to the critics, see what they say is correct and what is wrong.

Be prepared to change as the world changes, because the world is always changing.

Recognise politics is always an experiment, and some times experiments will show you your theories are wrong.