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cybernetics

The Cobra Effect of Unintended Consequences

The Cobra Effect of unintended consequences is the tip of an enormous iceberg of complex systems feedback loops and interdependency.

It is not just the measurable, observed or recorded properties, processes and downstream consequences that concern us.

Where we seek to control, shape or otherwise, and more realistically, to (minimally, if constructively) influence the arc and trajectory of the behaviour of a complex dynamical system, we do well to acknowledge that not only will there always be unintended consequences, but the sum total of all combinatorial dependency represents a constitutively unmeasurable as unknowable system property.

The presence of epistemological absence is not, however, any kind of fault or flaw.

Intractable uncertainty is a kernel core upon which most language, subjective (or political) identity and organisational purpose is already anchored. It also represents a tangible opportunity for any well-informed philosophy of systems intervention that is as adaptive and indefinitely-extensible as are the systems it seeks to influence.

This kind of recursive bootstrap does not fit simply or unproblematically into the communications container and primary transmission medium of language.

The challenges here are also and as much of the language with which we define them.

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