Not only does he big up Dirk Helbing's work on self-organising traffic systems (which HERD reades will know all to well), but he also deals with Dirk's applications of the same stuff to industrial process design (for GM as it happens).
As I read the piece this morning, I had a strong sense of the "uncanny": a discomfort with the idea of organisations without human-based structure- without someone in control.
I think an instinctive resistance to this kind of thing is widespread – say of a traffic control system without a central (human-led) control room or a factory without anyone in charge – and this serves to underline how peculiarly unsuited our minds seem to be to living with complexity. As Mark puts it,
"we can't trust our intuition when it comes to the super-complex systems we depend on"
We'd much prefer things to be other than they are: to be ordered and manageble and predictable.
"WE HUMANS prefer the tidy to the untidy, the ordered to the disordered.
We like pristine geometrical regularity, and eschew what is erratic and
irregular. We want predictability and, more than anything, we want
And much of management science – of the professionalisation of our working lives – plays to just this preference. And perpetuates our illusions.
So next time you sense you yourself or somebody around you (a client or colleague) seeking a bit of control, understand that what you're witnessing is a resistance to complexity.