«The world is uncertain and nondeterministic. Predicting the future is impossible, futile and pretentious.»
There goes another favorite mantra of pop complexity literature, the one directed to managers.
As anthropologists will confirm, uncertainty is what makes homo sapiens’ life interesting. The other animals live in a world of certainties. Homo sapiens knows about uncertainty and, thanks to it, develops knowledge.
We owe any knowledge to uncertainty.
Because of the fact that we do not know many things, and since we learned, often the hard way, that Nature continues to surprise us, we keep on searching for explanations.
We love to know more. And we know we never know enough. Science is not about certainty and stillness. Science is about understanding, searching, knowing better; and about change.
Scientific knowledge includes, although is not limited to, the formalization of some repeatable situations. In an uncertain environment, we figure out some dependable laws (which change over time, as we get to know more).
Weather is (both deterministically and stocastically) chaotic, yet we make useful forecasts. Electrons may unexpectedly jump out of energy holes, still we can build computer chips and throw projectiles. The date of my death is unpredictable, but its likelyhood increases greatly as a given age (statistically determined) approaches: insurances, pensions, roulette and poker all usefully build on the same concept.
Scientists know that they do not know a whole lot of things. Socratically. That’s the key to learning, to discovery. If you think you know, you won’t know more than what you do know.
Scientists also know that their knowledge is prone to change. If it weren’t, there would be no science and no scientists. (Although a number of self-proclaimed pseudo-scientists would continue steeling a salary from ad-hoc institutions :-)).
Most pop complexity authors do not have a scientific background: they are fascinated by science but they do not understand it.
They imagine it as a mechanistic system aimed at turning the world into a final exact equation.
They love to talk about complexity (or fractals, etc.) but they ignore the ABC of science. They often are dogmatic and bigots, for the very reason that they do not have a scientific mind.
It’s ironic that they could be addressed as Euler once did with Diderot in Saint Petersburg:
Sir, (a + bn) / n = x, hence God exists. Please respond.