Simplifying Complexity: Life is Uncertain, Unfair and Unequal

Indexed in: EBSCO.

In life, we often face unavoidable complexities in terms of our ability to understand or influence outcomes. Some questions which arise due to these complexities are: Why can’t the future be made ...
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How Scientists Think

Pp. 3-51 (49)

Bruce J. West


We begin by focusing on the ways we record the myriad of events that make up our lives, using simple models that are intended to capture the dominant features of those events and to provide coherent interlinking of events. If the world did not change in time, more and more detail could be added to these models, with each repetition of an event. Eventually we would have an accurate reconstruction of a successful economic relationship, of a nurturing family, or of a supportive organization. But things do change, even if our reactions to them do not. To understand these changes scientists have developed techniques that quantify and communicate objective models of these subjective events. Without presenting the technical details of how scientists construct such models, I use a combination of personal history and discussions of the science hidden by a variety of social problems, to lay the foundation for the understanding and resolution of these problems in subsequent chapters.


Chaos, Exponential growth, Grand visions, Mental models, Multiple saturations, Saturation, Technology evolution.


Research Triangle, Park Durham, NC 27709, USA.