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  • Do you ever feel completely overwhelmed

  • when you're faced with a complex problem?

  • Well, I hope to change that in less than three minutes.

  • So, I hope to convince you that complex

  • doesn't always equal complicated.

  • So for me, a well-crafted baguette, fresh out of the oven,

  • is complex,

  • but a curry onion green olive poppy cheese bread

  • is complicated.

  • I'm an ecologist, and I study complexity. I love complexity.

  • And I study that in the natural world, the interconnectedness of species.

  • So here's a food web,

  • or a map of feeding links between species

  • that live in Alpine Lakes in the mountains of California.

  • And this is what happens to that food web

  • when it's stocked with non-native fish that never lived there before.

  • All the grayed-out species disappear.

  • Some are actually on the brink of extinction.

  • And lakes with fish have more mosquitos, even though they eat them.

  • These effects were all unanticipated,

  • and yet we're discovering they're predictable.

  • So I want to share with you a couple key insights

  • about complexity we're learning from studying nature

  • that maybe are applicable to other problems.

  • First is the simple power of good visualization tools

  • to help untangle complexity

  • and just encourage you to ask questions you didn't think of before.

  • For example, you could plot the flow of carbon

  • through corporate supply chains in a corporate ecosystem,

  • or the interconnections of habitat patches

  • for endangered species in Yosemite National Park.

  • The next thing is that if you want to predict

  • the effect of one species on another,

  • if you focus only on that link,

  • and then you black box the rest,

  • it's actually less predictable

  • than if you step back, consider the entire system -- all the species, all the links --

  • and from that place,

  • hone in on the sphere of influence that matters most.

  • And we're discovering, with our research,

  • that's often very local to the node you care about

  • within one or two degrees.

  • So the more you step back, embrace complexity,

  • the better chance you have of finding simple answers,

  • and it's often different than the simple answer that you started with.

  • So let's switch gears and look at a really complex problem

  • courtesy of the U.S. government.

  • This is a diagram of the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.

  • It was front page of the New York Times a couple months ago.

  • Instantly ridiculed by the media

  • for being so crazy complicated.

  • And the stated goal was to increase popular support

  • for the Afghan government.

  • Clearly a complex problem,

  • but is it complicated?

  • Well, when I saw this in the front page of the Times,

  • I thought, "Great. Finally something I can relate to.

  • I can sink my teeth into this."

  • So let's do it. So here we go for the first time ever,

  • a world premiere view of this spaghetti diagram as an ordered network.

  • The circled node is the one we're trying to influence --

  • popular support for the government.

  • And so now we can look one degrees, two degrees,

  • three degrees away from that node

  • and eliminate three-quarters of the diagram outside that sphere of influence.

  • Within that sphere,

  • most of those nodes are not actionable, like the harshness of the terrain,

  • and a very small minority are actual military actions.

  • Most are non-violent and they fall into two broad categories:

  • active engagement with ethnic rivalries and religious beliefs

  • and fair, transparent economic development

  • and provisioning of services.

  • I don't know about this, but this is what I can decipher from this diagram

  • in 24 seconds.

  • When you see a diagram like this, I don't want you to be afraid.

  • I want you to be excited. I want you to be relieved.

  • Because simple answers may emerge.

  • We're discovering in nature that simplicity often lies

  • on the other side of complexity.

  • So for any problem, the more you can zoom out and embrace complexity,

  • the better chance you have of zooming in

  • on the simple details that matter most.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

Do you ever feel completely overwhelmed

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B1 US TED complexity diagram complex sphere node

【TED】Eric Berlow: Simplifying complexity (Eric Berlow: Simplifying complexity)

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    Zenn posted on 2017/05/21
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