Organised Complexity

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This is an image from the Blue Brain project, showing a network of 30 million connections between the 10,000 neurons that make up just one neocortical column. Our brains contain around ten million times this many neurons in total. Manuel Lima (a senior UX design lead at Microsoft Bing) uses this as illustration in this wonderful RSA lecture in which he explores the idea of network visualisation as a way of navigating the complexity of our modern world. The RSA have done another lovely Animate film of it below which is worth watching.

One of the ideas that I found most fascinating is how the structures we use for classifying knowledge and mapping our increasingly complex world are shifting away from hierarchical ‘tree-like’ representations that reflect our desire for control, symmetry, simplicity and balance, towards potentially far more accurate and convincing network representations. Networks are, and perhaps always have been, a fundamentally better way of understanding the ‘organised complexity’ of the ecosystems which surround us and of which we are a part. Fascinating.

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