Chaos leaping into new orders of complexity

“When a complex system is far from equilibrium, small islands of coherence in a sea of chaos have the capacity to shift the entire system to a higher order.” — Ilya Prigogine, quoted in

The above quote was posted on a friend’s Facebook timeline; I really liked it so I got curious and googled Prigogine.

Also check out Prigogine, Chaos, and Contemporary Science Fiction, paper by David Porush. “SF often registers and extrapolates the consequences of new scientific knowledge even before science does. This relationship between science and SF has become especially intriguing in the case of the new science of deterministic chaos. This new paradigm — which explains how complex, apparently chaotic systems leap into new orders of complexity — has implications not only for the technology of the future, but for our understanding of the cosmic role of intelligence and of the narratives it spins. …”

The quote from Prigogine reminded me a bit of that famous quote attributed to Margaret Mead. The one that says small groups of people can in fact make a difference, and moreover, are the only thing that ever has made a difference.

So I googled Margaret Mead to get the exact wording of the quote, and as a bonus, I found this very interesting blog post, “About that Margaret Mead quotation.” The writer actually refutes the idea that small groups of people can make a difference. He says that in fact only people in their millions can make a difference.

He gives as examples the independence movements in various African countries in the 1950s and 60s; and the civil rights movement in the USA.

At first I wanted to argue, and also felt a bit deflated because I have often quoted that Margaret Mead quote and taken courage and inspiration from it.

But then I realized both are true! This guy is right, and Margaret Mead is still right. What often happens is that one person or a small group of people get an idea and get committed to making it happen. Then they somehow contact or activate much larger numbers of people who have had the idea or been working quietly for the thing. And then, once large numbers of people have been catalyzed or activated, the thing ends up coming to fruition.

My takeaway from this is: Find your people. No matter how fringe you think your idea or aspiration is, there will be a certain number of people who totally are into it and might already be working for it. Once you find your little cluster of a few dedicated citizens, that little cluster might then go on to activate millions of people who have been wanting the same thing but have been needing some kind of spark to get fully activated.