Intention, Impact, and Complex Systems
We love attributing sinister motives to systems and to people who created them.
We don’t see that intention and impact are not the same thing. And that confusion between the two is more common, and more reason for strife, than we might suspect.
Recently I came across this statement about education: “What if I told you that the hidden agenda of those controlling public education policy has actually been… to snuff out young people’s natural creativity, curiosity, independence, freedom of thinking and love of learning?”
A sensational headline, right?
But not quite accurate.
Yes, it’s true that our education system is designed around conforming. And that it seriously hampers true individuation, which is at the core of natural creativity, curiosity, independence, freedom of thinking and love of learning.
Yet, it’s not because it was consciously intended to be so. Rather it’s because those parameters were simply not considered.
The current education system was imagined in the early Industrial Age, to train people to strictly adhere to processes. There was belief in hierarchies — people who knew, and people who needed to be told. In that belief system, children obviously needed to be told! And they sincerely believed it would create a better world. Thus was born the command and control culture, and education systems were consistent with that culture.
We live in a different world now. We are aware of different things. So in hindsight, we see the short-sightedness of how it has been. And then we take a leap — so this is how it must have been intended!
Well, we are simply not that smart. Not that smart to plan such that world turns out exactly how we want it to. The one thing that we wanted to fix gets fixed, and ten other things fall apart! They fall apart not because we intended it to be so; but because the world has inter-dependent elements — and it is impossible to take into account and anticipate the effect on all of those elements. Our mind is simply not that big. We are part of a system — inherently limited in seeing the system. We are thrown off because our assumptions, our way of drawing conclusions, are imperfect, and will always be. They will evolve no doubt, but will remain imperfect.
So, for the sake of our sanity, for the sake of responding to what is, let us learn to distinguish between intention and impact. So we can respond to the impact without getting caught up in the blaming. So we can begin to understand the diverse elements that led to the impact. So we can be ok with the messiness. So we can continuously adjust and act, based on the impact we observe, rather than angst over whodunnit!