Theory of Complication
There is one thing that I know to be true about the world. It’s complicated. And if one traces its history, one can be sure it will grow even more complicated over time. While it is sometimes difficult to find solid ground in politics, faith, love, family, media, or deciding on pizza toppings between two or more people… the growing complexity of the world we live in is something perhaps frightening and disorienting. But hey, at least its a certainty. Let me explain.
For those of you who believe in (ahem!) the 7 days in which god created the universe, just stop reading now. I do not deny the possibility of a god, goddess, or a dark ring of higher beings and their hobbies like smiting and creation. However, to believe our universe was created in 7 days is laughable in this day and age (this coming from someone who had 7 years of private catholic schooling). So lets consider the Big Bang and, as our engineer informs me, a state of singularity. Why do we assume there even was a beginning to the universe? For one we know and can observe the expanding of the universe. Edwin Hubble discovered that a galaxy’s velocity is proportional to its distance, that galaxies twice the distance from us move twice as fast. This suggests that it has taken every galaxy the same amount of time to move from one common starting point to where it is now.
That established, lets consider the outcome. Matter. Matter began to cool, thus forming common particles. Photons and neutrons began to react to one another forming heavy hydrogen, tritium, and later helium. Already we see where this is going. Complication. Over billions of years particles will continue to collide and react, violently shaping matter into the common states we know today.
Flash forward. Large masses of matter have formed; galaxies, stars, and planets. Lets examine our planet’s history, because its a complicated one. Long ago violent seismic and super volcanic activity, as well as collisions with asteroids, emitted particle gas that later produced a thin atmosphere. It is assumed that large amounts of water came from collisions with comets and protoplanets, melting massive amounts of ice. As Earth cooled, clouds formed and precipitation helped formed large bodies of water. The vaporizing water further complicated the ever-changing atmosphere. Meanwhile, molecules at some point began to make copies of themselves. These copies would often be slightly different from their parents, some copies producing better and faster than others. These self-producing molecules, or replicators were the beginnings of DNA, the basic building blocks of life.
Flash forward. Living micro-organisms eventually evolve into animals of all kinds, including primates. After certain environmental stresses on a particular group of primates, they were likely forced to walk rather than swing in trees. With two hands free to use they quickly discovered the advantages of an opposable thumb. Tools baby! From this point on things get out of control. When recently arguing for the theory of complication, I presented a series of simple questions (not necessarily in chronological order).
After humans stood up right and began using tools, what came next? Language? Sure, language, lets roll with this for a moment.
Flash forward. Language gives way to what? “Recorded history” your friend muses. Alright, we now have recorded history, from cave murals to hyroglifics to newspaper print. And what does recorded history imply??? I’ll suggest information. And information itself has evolved from oral stories and cave murals to alphabets to written stories to scientific notations to print to email and internet blogging and so on… Complication? I think so.
Currency is another great example. To think only hundreds of years ago what was yours was yours. And what was yours was yours to trade. Then coin and dollar came about, and this is where it gets complicated. Printed currency brings about a banking system, which later brings about loans, bonds, stocks, derivative swaps (ouch), and ultimately imaginary money. What do we have all the while? Economy! Since when is economy part of nature’s plan??? And yet economies are now a common integral part of commerce that effects all human beings. Theories are developed to understand, control, and predict the economy and I wonder, “How did currency ever get this complicated?”
More examples still! Time. There have always been natural cycles or indicators of time, since matter has been in motion and reacting. Then we humans measure it down to nanoseconds, chart the moving sky and illustrate time with sun dials, clocks, calendars, and even use concepts of time to measure galactic distances in light years. Complicated yet? Shit… we haven’t even started. Throw in relativity! For reasons beyond me, but confirmed by diligent tests, time is perceived to tick by at different rates depending on relative velocity. It also differs with one’s relative altitude, or differing gravitational potential (say what?!). If time is subject to gravitational forces, then what the fuck are we measuring?!?! If even time isn’t consistent, then what the hell is?!?! My head hurts…
Again, these are just a few of hundreds of examples we could get into. Love, hate, or basic human emotions in general is a strange phenomenon. Governments, culture, acceptable social manners, mathematics, fashion, music… its a complicated world. Nothing nature intended. Or did it? Is complication, nature and human activity included, the actual natural order? Perhaps there is something comforting about complication. Because when things like time are no longer consistent (leap year anyone?!), at least we can be confident that complication will grow and grow and grow. In fact, its exciting. Like matter colliding and reacting in space, who knows what violent changes will be unleashed as a result of the human experience. The last two decades alone has introduced the Internet!
Yes, complication is an untamed beast. It is the natural order of things… or rather the order of things. Does it justify nuclear energy, oil spills, mass genocide, melting polar icecaps? We certainly can’t justify it, but perhaps this is where complication is taking us, hell or high water. Perhaps what we perceive as problems (for us anyway) is simply the world, the universe becoming more complicated.
And as an intelligent being I wonder… How long until we no longer can keep up with complication? When do things become so complicated we no longer understand it, no longer can control it, no longer can anticipate it, no longer see things as they are anymore? Like standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, your eyes struggle to take in the shear size, depth, and detail of the gorge. It looks like a two dimensional painting and in this moment your mind betrays you. The only way to grasp it is to enter the great abyss and wander about it. The rest of us only hope that you return to tell about it!