Dealing with complexity

More and more people feel unable to meet the demands of modern life. They search for guidance on how to make smart decisions, and how to achieve stability and security in the maelstrom of political, personal and professional changes. For it is becoming increasingly clear that our present way of thinking and planning for the future no longer seem to function in a highly dynamic and interconnected world. Instead of being able to project current developments linearly into the future, we must become accustomed to unexpected events continually torpedoing our plans and strategies.

In order to be able to navigate through the future safely, we will need to have different skills and abilities than in the past. Instead of sticking firmly to once-made plans and projects, we must learn to endure uncertainties and react flexibly to unforeseen events and developments. We need the ability to think in new ways and find unexpected solutions. In doing so, our own uncertainty can become an important resource because it enables us to remain alert and, at the decisive moment, to embrace chance and coincidence.

In these situations, we are helped, on the one hand, by our own inner stability, which is supported by our own values and awareness, and on the other by our solid relationships with the people with whom we plan and share our lives. For not only the tenets of psychology and philosophy, but also the principles of contemporary evolutionary biology and complexity research show that successful relationships are a vital prerequisite for creative growth.

Quantum physics

It is a widespread custom to regard the world as a kind of enormous construction kit and matter as a collection of building components or particles. When Werner Heisenberg set aside this perception, he discovered that matter actually does not consist of objectively observable particles, but largely of immaterial energy interrelationships. Their appearance depends on the way in which they are observed. The material basis of our world has no objectively observable substance but is in fact a set of related phenomena.

The discovery of quantum physics should have led to a change in the way we view our world, an evolution in our way of thinking. But this did not occur. The way we view the world is still based on physical characteristics, which are long obsolete.

So what is the benefit for us as ordinary people to concern ourselves with these things? Namely, because we as a society still employ the same patterns of thought which made it impossible in the past for physicists to find solutions for many of their problems. These traditional thinking habits not only have an influence on basic research in physics, they also have ecological, economic and social consequences because we employ them in all areas of life.

Emotions and cognition

Some Enlightenment philosophers (Montesquieu, for example) postulated that human beings would continue to develop until eventually they were able to control their irrationality completely. At this point, humans would almost have reached perfection and they would become thoroughly rational and reasonable beings. A nice idea? But what would human beings be without their emotions and their irrational behavior?

In the light of modern knowledge from the fields of cognitive neuroscience and cognitive psychology this perception is obsolete, in fact it’s even a misconception. A major reason for this misinterpretation is that human thinking and decision making are guided by many imponderables, emotions, judgements and heuristic processes, so that it is simply not possible to make a purely rational decision. Furthermore, a purely rational type of behavior would not be expedient because human beings exist in a complex and highly dynamic world.