a new year and some old thinking


” … are the fountain of an energy that goes pulsing on with waves of ragged claws thinkerbenefit to the borders of society, to the circumference of things.” – Emerson



New years are always about two things I take seriously … hope and possibilities.


And rather than make poor predictions <as I mostly did last year> I will instead assess the viability of them for 2014.


We should have more hope … and more possibilities … than we could ever imagine. And, yet, instead … we seem to have more despair and lack of hope infringing upon the possibilities.




I am sure I could invest dozens of page sharing thoughts on why but instead I will focus on what I would consider the intellectual aspects … what is going on in with our attitudes that affect our heads, how we think and how we approach these things.

And what I believe would help us moving forward in 2014 to improve upon our hope and possibilities.


Issue one. over-simplification


Suffice it to say we have devolved into a society of sound bites and over simplification.

In business it seems to be all about simplicity.

In everyday Life it is ‘summarize it for me’ or ‘it’s simple <insert some explanation here>.’


In the end I can’t figure out if should be pointing the finger at us or them.

Them because they think we are not capable of understanding some form of complexity and therefore they only offer up simplified versions of what needs to be communicated.

Or us because we either <a> demand a sound bite under the guise of ‘we only have time for the headline’ or <b> we only latch on to the fragment of the whole which we believe summarizes the whole.


Therefore I will point the finger at all of us and them.


Here is a Truth.

Most things are just not that simple.

An effect can have multiple causes and a cause can have multiple effects. I say this despite the fact naturally we would like all the dominoes to line up one after another and when one falls the next naturally is impacted and falls.


Life and things don’t really work that way. Maybe in a controlled test environment but in real Life events are typically bombarded from a variety of directions and while not all ’causes’ are created equal <some can impact more than others> most things are too complex to be simplified into ‘one thing.’


voices in headOver simplifying simply means ignoring complexities.

Over simplifying simply means being consciously, or choicefully, ignorant.

Over simplifying … well … just doesn’t work in the long run.

It eases you through the moment only to have to doubly <or exponentially> invest energy later on.


Simply? Over simplification just doesn’t work.

Instead of dumbing things down to some simplistic sound bite we need to raise the level of general understanding & knowledge to the level of complexity of the ideas & systems … and <frankly> the world in which we live within. Life isn’t simple so what makes us think over simplifying will offer solutions?



Factually … seconds of involvement <sound bites> versus minutes of involvement <deeper complex discussion> leads to degrees of real knowledge.  i.e., seconds leads to shallow knowledge or let’s call it ‘less knowledgeable’ and minutes lead to something deeper.



Over simplification will not demystify uncertainty and cannot help us do what we really need to do … reconcepting & rethinking that which is.

What I am suggesting is difficult and uncertain work.

But certainly more satisfying and inspiring when we solve and recreate.


This means less The Secret and more real thinking.

Less positive attitude inspiration and more hard work behavior aspiration.


Neither hope nor possibilities can be resolved in a sound bite. They are simple sounding concepts with deeper complex workings.


The fate of hope and possibilities lies in balance if we don’t invest in the hard work of ‘non over simplification.’


Maybe worse <pragmatically>?

We won’t solve any of the problems <because most problems cannot be solved in simplicity … and certainly not in over simplification>.



This leads me to …



Issue two. being intellectually insightful is about hard work.


Let me begin by suggesting that good ideas cannot be decided by number of tweet votes in favor of.

Life and ideas is not American idol.


We are not all judges <and probably shouldn’t be on American idol either>.

Good ideas are rarely popular.


This really means that being intellectually insightful requires more than a surface ‘this is what I think’ tweet popular vote.immensity of life is hard


If we really want to do what needs to be done to maximize hope and possibilities we have to hunker down and work hard … work hard in that we need to use what we have to rethink things … use all aspects including economic thought and philosophy and the past … all of which means dealing with ambiguity and contradiction.

And, yes, that is hard work.

That is the kind of work that hones the intellectual insightfulness we need.


Instead of dumbing things down we need to be raising the level of general understanding to the level of complexity of the systems in which we are embedded and which are embedded in us.

And while you may balk at something like ‘intellectual insightfulness’ as too far reaching … suffice it to say we just need to be smarter … less ignorant … more enlightened <open to additional thoughts> and more involved in the difficult and uncertain work of demystification and reconcepting ideas and systems in which we live in and … well … just plain rethinking shit.


Simply talking about world-changing ideas will not simply make the world change.


I read somewhere recently that ‘if you remove this boundary … the only boundary left is our imagination.’

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Imagination is important but even imagination is complicated and difficult and tends to not offer tidy solutions.

Especially if you don’t invest in the hard work.


We need to be doing more of ‘using your imagination within the box of what exists.’

We don’t need to be wandering aimlessly ‘outside the box’ but rather using our imagination insightfully and creatively WITHIN the box … and expand the boundaries.


Simply having a positive attitude ain’t gonna work. Hard work will work. And in this case I mean hard thinking work.

Simply ‘doing’ aint gonna cut it.

We need to be smarter. And whether you think about thinking this way or not … it ain’t about staring off into space doing nothing … thinking is a blue collar job. It’s about work.



Issue three. innovation is not <just> technology.


web Internet Neural NetWhat makes oversimplification even more challenging is that for some reason we seem to be associating innovation with technology … and just technology.

We can’t … and shouldn’t.

This type of thinking leads us to possibly believe technology innovations will eventually solve all problems and maximize everyone’s Life as some point.

It’s a very dangerous idea because in reality of we focus just on technology as the solution we are actually preventing the real change we need.

It’s a very dangerous idea because it completely removes the human aspect.


Minds need to innovate too.

Thinking and attitudes need to evolve and innovate.

New thought systems, economic systems and systems in which people live eat and breath all need to evolve … and that happens through innovation <whether technology is involved or not>.


Technology is simply a path that runs parallel to culture <or society>.

And each needs to be run at the same pace <or at least be run side by side on occasion>.

A truth is that technology outpacing society simply exacerbates the flaws and limits of the slower runner.

If a problem is endemic to a system then we run the risk that technology simply amplifies the problems.


Technology and culture are entangled.

Technologies may enable new ways of doing things … not just doing but thinking. This effects culture … so culturally we need to innovate to structure how those technologies will be involved in our lives <so that we can dictate a little how they are incorporated> and we need to innovate our thinking and culture so that we can actually impact how technology evolves <so that we can dictate how what technology is innovated in some form or fashion>.

At the moment it seems like we respond to technology rather than proactively drive technology.


Technology has certainly dramatically improved the overall quality of life.

The paradox is that the system we have now may make amazing new technology possible, but at same time is creating such cultural conflict that maximizing technology ‘what could be’ seems impossible.


We need to innovate the systems in which technology exists.

Economically, culturally and philosophically.

All systems need to see innovation.






Hope and possibilities abound in today’s world.

But they are rarely just given … they need to be earned.


I don’t believe simplicity is bad.

I don’t believe being optimistic or having a positive attitude is bad.


And I also don’t believe that if you don’t spend years to understand the complexities of a specific issue and have the ability to offer solutions you don’t deserve to engage in the subject.we are as indestructible


But we seem trapped at the extremes.

On one side too often we seem verbose and excessively caught up in complexity and nuance …for complexity and nuance’s sake.

On the other side too often we simplify into Gladwellian bullshit or infotainment like sound bites … for simplicity sake.



At minimum a lack of knowledge suggests lack of participation or involvement … at maximum … it suggests intellectual laziness.


We cannot be lazy moving forward.

We cannot afford to be lazy thinkers.


For in this type of laziness lurks ignorance and it is ignorance we should fear. Not any ideological argument or technological innovation which inserts itself into our daily lives but ignorance.


And maybe that would be my hope of a cultural resolution for the new year.


Avoid lazy thinking.


Maybe have everyone hearken to Emerson’s words … “Consent yourself to be an organ of your highest thought, and lo! suddenly you put all men in your debt, and are the fountain of an energy that goes pulsing on with waves of benefit to the borders of society, to the circumference of things.”




Consent yourself to be of your highest thought.


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Written by Bruce