The universe is a pretty complex phenomenon. So are the biosphere, quantum mechanics, the functionality of the brain and many other natural phenomena. And yet, during the course of human “civilization” we have acquired an admirable body of knowledge on all of these matters, cutting through the seemingly complex appearance of the world and advancing our knowledge exponentially by the hour. We have deciphered the human genome, sent humans to the moon, and soon enough we will find a cure for cancer and develop fusion power.
However, at the same time that many intelligent human beings make most laudable contributions to the advancement of human knowledge, modern society is doing its best to impede an even faster advancement of knowledge or, much worse, the useful application of such knowledge for the benefit of humankind. The main reason I see for this is what I call artificial complexity, that is, complexity created by humans, draining valuable intellectual and manual resources away from more expedient causes.
Artificial complexity is everywhere: complex organizations function ineffectively, trying to adapt constantly to new management theory fads, creating tons of rules and regulations, installing “compliance officers” and stomping out any creativity that there may be; vague and pullulated legislation causes uncertainty for consumers, publishers, businesses and public representatives, leading to a large number of unnecessary legal battles; financial regulation enables financial institutions to obfuscate their genuine undertakings; complex medical insurance systems drown medical doctors in paperwork; a verbose and diffuse tax code causes exasperation for small businessmen as well as citizens ; patent law kills innovation all over the place and costs lives in developing countries; and lastly, copyright laws prevent easy access to knowledge and prevent teachers from copying teaching materials – these are but some aspects that are part of this insane complexity game that all of us have been playing far too long.
In an ideal world, it should be rather simple: let teachers teach, let scientists experiment and research, let doctors and nurses attend to their patients and so on – without impeding them unnecessarily and abominably with more and more artificial complexity. Let us put lawyers, tax advisors, business consultants, media advisors, bankers, legislators, lobbyists and the like out of practice and channel these resources to useful purposes, further advancing society and making this world a tad bit more livable.
In 2011 there were roughly 670 thousand teachers and 340 thousand practicing medical doctors in Germany. Compare this to approximately 660 thousand employees in the financial sector, 160 thousand lawyers, 90 thousand business consultants and 90 thousand tax advisors and you get an idea of what is going awry in modern society.