Moving away from the “God complex” – Tim Harford on TED

By Robert Hickson 12/08/2011 4

Following my previous post a colleague pointed me to Tim Harford’s talk on TED. Tim favours the trial and error approach over the “God complex” . The latter is where someone confidently proclaims they know how a complex system works, when in fact they don’t. This is similar to the fox and hedgehog analogy I wrote about. On a similar vein, good advice to foresight people from Paul Saffo [PDF]  is that if you forecast, do it often and be the first to correct your forecast.

Fellow Sciblogger Shaun Hendy wrote more about Tim Harford in July in relation to how some of his ideas relate to improving innovation in New Zealand.

4 Responses to “Moving away from the “God complex” – Tim Harford on TED”

  • He is describing (ie, evolving thru trial & error) the concept of system non-equilibrium dynamics, which physicists proposed as one of the mechanism by where complexity arises in nature.

    “Self-organized Criticality”

    I’ve been interested in how this concept has taken off into other branches of both sciences (biology, neuro-science, chemistry, etc,..) and humanities (as in economics & sociology).

    I was surprised to come across the following, which I can assure readers and commentators here, that the author/s of the paper was not Donald Trump.

    “You’re Fired! Self-Organized Criticality in Post-Merger and Acquisition Executive Turnover”

  • I think the following article (from United Nation Institute for Disarmament Research) is the most comprehensive description of complexity, network theory and SOC (self organized criticality) that anyone can learn about the topic. Simple and easy to follow.

  • Robert Hickson, sorry to pollute your blog with posting many links here, but I thought that your readers may find them interesting.

    I think that the followings which touched on SOC (self organized criticality) may be the closest to what Tim Harford talked about in his video lecture above. Extinction and self-organized criticality in a model of large-scale evolution Stem cell decision making and critical-like exploratory networks

    • Thanks Falafulu

      The evolution and stem cell papers are tough reading, but I like the physics of diplomacy paper. I don’t belive that social interactions can be distilled purely to physics, but the approach does contribute useful insights.

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