Is it possible that this community is dealing with a **wicked** problem?

Continuing the discussion from This community needs more involvement from its founders!:

A wicked problem is a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize. The use of the term " wicked " here has come to denote resistance to resolution, rather than evil.

Wicked problem - Wikipedia

Like improving human health, fighting air pollution or many other societal issues?

It looks like a wicked problem, but it is not, because it is solvable. It is a common good problem and addiction problem. We need to align interests between people/common and owners of the platforms. Also, we need to understand human nature and put safeguards against addiction.


Can I say that improving human health is a very old problem (which might have “wicked” sub-problems), but that fighting air pollution might be divided from the local (see Great Smog of London) versus recent global perspectives (Climate change)?

Nah, I don’t think this is a wicked problem. The issue is simply that the users of technology are, for the most part, NOT the customer. If you’re using Google, or Facebook, or Twitter… you’re not paying for the technology and so it’s designed to serve the interests of those who ARE paying for it. And they’re not paying that much - about the same $ per year as consumers pay for things like concert tickets, events, and other entertainment. If we can make a sustainable model for people to pay for their own tech, so it will be designed to serve THEIR interests, we can solve the problem. This CAN be solved for internet-based tech in a way it CAN"T be solved for the older TV and radio broadcast models. I am hopeful, we just need to raise consumer willingness to pay for tech that serves their own interests… and then provide the tech.

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To be more specific, let’s try to make sustainable the still unsustainable electric power industry. This is not longer different from Google, Facebook or Twitter, as obsolete supply side regulations are gaining ground to protect the statu quo. We need demand side institutional innovations to help emerge global institutions to deal with the wicked problems that emerged when the regulation was designed for transitions under roadmaps of economies of scale of the supply side.

Please consider, for example, the post Was the Smart Grid 2025 a transition scenario? Do we need a transformation scenario? That post starts with the following quotes that might be telling us we are dealing with a wicked problem:

“ Knowledge comes by taking things apart: analysis. But wisdom comes by putting things together.” – John A. Morrison

“… technology is the easy part to change. The difficult aspects are social, organizational, and cultural.” – Donald Norman, “The Invisible Computer,” Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT Press 1988.

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back to the technology, not the other way around.” – Steve Jobs

@Free and @JHercules do you see @Drabiv on the “Frequent Posters”?

Anyway, as I am new, I want to learn what that means.

Yes, and as an example it’s strange how we pay so much attention to climate change compared to smog. 9 million people die each year from smog and other air pollution, but very few die from climate change (so far mostly from heat strokes).

It’s strange, the things we as humans decide to focus our attention on seem to be illogical. We often fail to address the root causes of our problems as a society. People are stuck in a cycle of reacting and locomotion rather than thinking, “is this wise?”

We have a complete lack of any kind of global leadership, and in most countries we don’t even have any real national leadership that is interested in solving these problems.

Most people including our leaders are completely blind to these health problems, and go on living living oblivious and ready to feel bad, get ill and die young.

In this case, after many thought experiments, the root causes are systemic, as they are not close in time nor in space, being the source of wicked problems, which I reinterpreted as anti-systemic problems in the post A Systemic Civilization Global Declaration of Interdependence, which has 24 updates. The titles of these updates are shown. for example, in the shared images.

Of course it’s a wicked problem. Wicked problems have come to define most real challenges in society today. This is one of the reasons why I have become such a huge follower of complexity science… the kind of stuff that comes out of the Santa Fe Institute and other university programs, not to mention ecosystem-based problem solving techniques such as you see out of programs like Theory U.

The nature of social problems are inherently complex and are prone to common complexity phenomena, such as non-linearity, emergence, etc. This means you have to abandon your old Industrial Revolution mindset of problem solving: where you’re dealing with only a handful of variables and you try to optimize everything for repeatability and precision. Instead, you have to deal with so many moving parts nobody can keep track of them… or things like a high degree of dependency on initial conditions.

For a good primer on a sense-making framework for how to deal with how each of these problem types are different and thus require a different set of approaches and mindset on how to deal with them, Dave Snowden’s Cynefin Framework is one of the best:

Learn some of these basics, and you’ll quickly realize the fallacy and futility of doing things like trying to apply categorical solutions or “best practices” to something like a socially-driven complex system problem. Because humans are actors in a networked system, it’s insanely difficult to apply old methods to solving such a problem – like trying to model individual behaviors and presuming the result is the sum of the parts, etc.


Thanks a lot for that Framework. Next is what I found out to support my systems architecting effort, with, for example, 20 organic hits on 'Emergence" in the post " A Systemic Civilization Global Declaration of Interdependence," in the process of creating a new roadmap through thought experiments.

I suggest look, for example, at the section “2.2.4 Emergence in Complex Systems” of the "A FRAMEWORK FOR SENSE-MAKING OF COMPLEX SOCIOTECHNICAL SYSTEMS By Lucie Reymondet. Submitted to the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology June 2016 [Copyright] 2016 Massachusetts Institute of Technology All rights reserved.

In it, it says: " Traditional systems architecture paradigms, frameworks and other formalisms adopt a decomposition-integration approach. Complex systems with emergent behavior call for another approach: moving up the scale of emergence (Figure 2-3) the decomposition-integration logic is less and less effective in deducing system-level behaviors and properties. Snowden & Boone (2007) derived a set of principles in organizational management of complex enterprises, which could be adapted to systems architecting strategies: for simple systems “sense, categorize, respond”, for complicated systems “sense, analyze, respond”, and for complex systems “probe, sense, respond”. Emergent, complex systems demand an experimental approach to be dealt with, instead of a prescriptive one."

“Figure 2-3: Types of Emergent Properties, adapted from (Maier, 2015)” is “Feedback effects, Non-linearity, Counterintuitive, Unpredictability” goes from ‘simple,’ ‘weak,’ ‘strong,’ to 'spooky."

Interesting follow-on. Definitely correlated.

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Please also consider The Energy Miracle is here with the #BG_NS narrative.