Taco Trucks Everywhere? Si!

There is a minimum efficiency in problem solving that our planet’s theoretically advanced species must reach in order to create a mechanism equal to the tasks ahead. Both the challenges to be solved and any solution-producing mechanism will act within, and thus must themselves be, highly complex systems, and will follow the known rules of such systems.

I don’t pretend to understand these rules very deeply as they contain mind-numbing math, but they are weirdly general; inputs to get wanted results have to be oddly gentle. It’s like the answer that Monty Python found to “The Meaning of Life”: Just be nice to each other, get some sleep, do what good you can, that kind of broadly-applied small change that makes sense within the instance of it. Not very satisfying for those who want drama.

This mechanism of productive creativity is the challenge of our time; can we avoid simplicity and encompass complexity in our dealings with this Earth? If we fail, we fall; there are already such desperate needs, and their number and importance will only grow. But this challenge is made more difficult because our brains predispose us to see complex systems with their non-linear results (the unintended consequence that tips the system into an unwanted new equilibrium) as simple machines we fix by adjusting some input, like a dial or the umpteen-bazillionth law.

We tend to impose a hierarchy, a top-down ordering usually with Law as the orderer, upon things that are not ordered that way, but are actually a bottom-up ordering that arises over time out of the interactions of the parts themselves. We must abandon this expectation of a hierarchy. It’s dangerous. The order that self-arises in highly complex systems is the optimum obtainable order or at least an approximation thereof; Nature is a lazy slob, filled with glorious failings and absurd work-arounds, which is creativity. Impose from the top down any ordering at all – strangely, even the optimum ordering – and you collapse choice, which collapses complexity and reduces order and productivity. It’s not the order being imposed. It’s the imposing.

But strangely again, we don’t have to agree with this idea for it to work as though it’s true. Nobody need accept this concept of – well, put it as ‘gentling’ rather than taming the forces in a culture. If you have become so frustrated by the crippling of government (that along with tax breaks for the least needy has been the R’s greatest accomplishment) that you’ve given up and tried out ways of going at the problem directly, then, congratulations, you’ve become a – um -complexitist. (That’s not very good, is it?) Whatever your theories might be, you’re now working on what Complexity Theory would call the significant level of granularity.

A less sensitive person than I should be would say “Throw it against the wall and see if it sticks.” Maybe this: The road is where we see the usefulness of the rubber, theories be damned. Too NASCAR-y?

There’s the tipping point into a sufficient awareness of complexity to be reached, so, yet more strangely, not that many people need to become not that much more aware of the results of their own choices and make better ones – not perfect ones, just better – for this needed solution-producing mechanism to be strengthened and order maintained. More individuals, each having more choice, a greater breadth of experience available in the population, more freedom of connection to more others, all these things help strengthen our needed mechanism. Some of them are surprising, not immediately apparent, and the polar opposite of what the racial supremacists think, if any or at all.

Here’s one. That weirdo uncle of yours, the one mutters to himself and spends all day in the attic of his trashed house making a monster train set, may have discovered a solution to a problem of routing that the people trying to make self-driving cars need. They can’t see the connection because they’ve gone carefully step-by-step from A to B to C, are now at M searching diligently for N – and actually the next step is so tangential, at such an odd angle to the trajectory of accepted research that it might just take a demented mind obsessed with toys to find it. Now I grant it’s true that this particular example is itself highly unlikely. Probably your weird uncle is just your weird uncle. But it is in fact possible, if the weird view of demented uncle is able to gravitate to the lab; and out of the gadzooksillion of human interactions, enough of these unlikely things are able to happen. Or not.

So is ours a culture where Mad Uncles are shut away? Fail. What about a culture that just dissuades, rather than barring, the members of Identified Class from participation? Not enough fluidity of creativity, not enough connection; answers fail from a lack of dimension. Because we cannot predict where Idea erupts, can’t know what very odd (to us) viewpoint is going to be the right one, we must be as open as we can be to different cultures, experiences, characteristics, any one of the many many ways we are determined to divide Humanity by. Here’s another surprising way; economists can chart many of the benefits that the inclusions of the physically handicapped had when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed as they showed up over time in a distinct boost in economic activity; such benefits quickly outweighed the costs. It was a rare glimpse of chaos at work.

The most powerful, though, is also disturbing; I want to give it only the barest description, and wouldn’t mention it if it wasn’t so exactly demonstrative of the point.

Think of the most awful kind of person you can, someone we all would be glad to be able to segregate. We’ll do so, even extending this banishment back into the past.

Now remember that fright we had some decades ago, a disease agent that couldn’t be killed or stopped as it spread through livestock, that we knew was only a tiny step away from spreading also to humans? It destroyed brains. Remember?

It was stopped because somebody a generation before had come up with this bizarre, clearly wrong idea about a condition that a viral piece could achieve and how it would act, how it would spread and be hard to stop, and he wrote papers about it that were laughed at. Literally, in fact. It was a joke in the field for enough people that some of those frightened scientists, as a last desperate resort, looked for and found it and thus discovered that the joke was on them. Took some dead cows and scary times, but the viewpoint was found to be true just in the nick.

Except we retroactively removed him, remember? Because though brilliantly insightful into an entire unsuspected field of DNA research, he was also the Unspeakable Pervert, and we got rid of all of them, remember?  Unknown disease spread in ways science said it couldn’t, so it didn’t get stopped because we sent that guy away thus removing his weird idea, and everyone died, you, me, him, us, all dead. It was all mad. Mad.

Point made, I think, and that’s all I’d care to say about that.

Problems like global warming demand vigorous solutions – not just an answer but a consort of answers, a productive process – and these solutions demand a free culture to arise. It’s rather like an equation; if enough humans in enough cultures in all the parts of the planet become individually enough able to act with enough choice with enough other individuals, enough answers will arise to enough problems just fast enough to keep us enough ahead of problem creation in order to survive and even thrive, though only just enough. Thornton Wilder’s ‘Skin of the Teeth’ as the most prescient novel of the last century in its application to this.

So, yeah; taco trucks on every corner. Fine with me. Looking forward to it.

Let me put it this way:

My people were mostly Scandinavian. Palt and ludefisk stands are opening on no corner, and be grateful. Don’t get me wrong. I love ludefisk, but I’m somebody’s weird uncle so it don’t count. Lye-cured dried cod has a smell when reconstituted and a look that says ‘No, thanks’, and you should listen. Don’t go there. Just. Don’t.

But I hope that my point is clear. We must have, as we always have had, a lot of everybody continually coming here from everywhere and speaking every known language and eating every known cuisine or else we’ll all be eating boiled potato balls and dead cod and Sweet Jesus, no.

Q. E. D.


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