My view of ‘chaos’

I thought that the word chaos was used only to describe situations that are or will have a negative outcome. That view changed completely after I stumbled upon Tom Wessel‘s The Myth of Progress. What ended up happening wasn’t simply learning a new meaning of a word that I already know, but an understanding of a different view of the world surrounding me.

Being thought to see the world through equations or simplifications they offer, I think I missed how nature works in my early adult years. My education simplified the world, trying to express or approximate its complexity in linear terms where 2+2=4. Can we ever speak of the weather with such mathematical precision? Or can we define the workings of a society and its culture with a set of equations?

I believe that the ability to reduce complex problems into approximated/simplified versions is the pinnacle of human ingenuity, but it’s at the cost of understanding chaotic systems, which is what we’re basically surrounded with every day; climate, our economic and political systems, pandemic, the human brain, etc. I also believe that trying to look at the world through a reductionistic view is either limiting our possible actions if not creating a feeling of hopelessness.

For a long time, I used to think that whatever my actions are, I am one of eight billion and they won’t really change anything. This put me in a state of despair living in a country with democracy falling apart and a world with a destabilizing climate.

I don’t know if either of the problems above will improve during my lifetime, and to be honest I’m not hopeful. But I believe that my actions could cause change, and this is not like a spiritual thing I arrived at. It’s more from the scientific understanding of how chaotic systems work. Just to give an example, you and I share %99.9 DNA that is exactly the same, yet that tiny fraction is enough to have such diversity. How come?

Hope this short post creates more questions than answers 🙂 Below is the experiment Wessels uses to explain chaos.

Zahhak @A.R.T. Jan 12-15

Two years after the first recorded performance of Zahhak in Boston, we now are going to perform it live at American Repertory Theater, Boston between Jan 12 to 15th. Here’s some more detail on the production.

You can use this link for making ticket reservations. It’s free!

And here are some interviews courtesy of Boston News Network, explaining why this performance exists and what our process is.