Context Trumps Causality

Michael Lissack


Many of the successes of our modern world have been the result of a focus on defined meaning and direct causality.  Given these foci narrative heuristics can be transformed into efficient algorithms.  But, efficiency comes at a price. Efficiency has little tolerance for ambiguity and even less tolerance for indirect forms of causality. Efficiency demands that context be treated as if it was a variable in a look up table.  Our advances in material living standards and in live expectancy are due to efficiency's stubborn form of Ohkam's Razor. Yet, the anthropocene has its own demands -- for context sensitivity, for the tolerance of ambiguity, and for the cultivation of resilience.  Our challenge over the coming decades is to relax efficiency's iron grip so as to allow the resilience required for future generations.



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