Is planning possible? Can Chaos trump order in our lives?

Chaos or Order, which rules your life? Chaos time is non-linear, non-ordered, non-sequential, unpredictable and multi-tasking. Order time is logical, linear, programmable, predictable and sequential. Some say time exists to bring order out of chaos. Our general view of chaos is that it leads to problems. Complex Adaptive Theory (Chaos Theory) subscribes to the viewpoint that the world is nominally chaotic and that only by understanding that the world is in a state of constant disequilibrium can we fully appreciate it. Here is one definition of Chaos Theory:

Chaos theory, in mathematics and physics, deals with the behavior of certain nonlinear dynamical systems that (under certain conditions) exhibit the phenomenon known as chaos, most famously characterized by sensitivity to initial conditions (see butterfly effect). Examples of such systems include the atmosphere, the solar system, plate tectonics, turbulent fluids, economies, and population growth.

The implications of Chaos Theory have had profound effects on the way scientists and even lay people now view the world. We now realize that our planning methods, our prediction methods and out strategies are subject to a great deal more unpredictability and serendipity then we once believed. This does not mean that we cannot or should not plan, but it implies that the degree of accuracy of our planning is subject to many outside and uncontrollable forces. Some even believe that planning is a waste of time. I disagree. If anything, I am more likely to plan but I build in more contingencies. I do agree that it is naive to forecast without considering the concept of “sensitivity to initial conditions” or the idea of “wild cards.” Both of these concepts imply that there are many factors which might alter our plans and over which we have no control. Nevertheless, I have had over 1000 plane trips during the last twenty years and in every case except one, I have arrived on-time at the place I wanted to go. Either I am very lucky or the world can be ordered and planned for. Maybe we can’t order everything and maybe it is foolish to try but many events, programs and activities happen every day based on “order time.”

What is your view of time? Is your time Chaotic or Ordered? Do you plan based on Chaos time or Order time? How effective has your planning been? How do you think your planning could be more effective? Would thinking about Chaos time help your planning?

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bgalbreath
    Nov 29, 2011 @ 19:32:57

    Even in an ultimately chaotic world, we have no better option than to plan, that is, to treat the world as if it were oderly. You may have taken 1000 plane trips without a crash, but did even one of those trips not lead to some surprise, something you had not foreseen and been able to plan for?



  2. John Persico
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 14:49:01

    Bruce, I would say I had to adapt to changes in route on several flights so that I was using both emergent and predictive planning. I think of the similarities to running or driving where I scan forward and back for obstacles and make adjustments to avoid crashing or falling. However, I can say nothing was ever out of the wild or what some might say was “unpredictable.'



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