Everything that has life, has complexity because there is a system, there are components, there is an interaction, there is an order and there is chaos. Herbert Simon, father of Artificial Intelligence said Complexity is intrinsically simple and hierarchal. While Constantin Brancusi said "Simplitatea este o complexitate rezolvată.” which means that simplicity is solved complexity. It's not strange how the thoughts of a physicist who got a Nobel Prize in economics in 1976 resonates with the poetry of an international sculptor born in 1876. History is full of examples of overlap in thoughts, philosophy, and research. Complexity is at the heart of life. This is why Erwin Schrödinger, one of the founding members of quantum physics asked 'What is life?'. Understanding complexity is about understanding universal behaviour and the universal laws that drive it. Complexity is an abstraction with an architecture. It's a quest which has taken science and humanity ahead. This book is about my quest, asking simple questions and finding answers to them because if simplicity and complexity are connected then the answer should not be difficult, one just needs to muster the courage to question.
1974: He stood there with a peeled ginger in his hand looking at his father and not daring to look at the vegetable vendor who was smiling and expecting him to chew on the bulb. His father nudged him to go ahead and take a bite. The young rhizome was fleshy, fibrous and pungent. With an unconscious breath he looked at the innocuous root and chewed on it, as if it was a Honeycrisp apple. Bright lights lit all around him as he saw his brain sprinkling fire like a fooljhadi. Everything else stopped. It seemed like eternity till he opened his eyes, smiled, and as if out of a strange pleasure, dug his teeth yet again into the long thumb. As if proving to his father and the happy bhaiya that he was born for adventure sports. Little did he know then that the spice had a connection to common sense and that it will change his life, as his memory will expand and history will seem like a moment ago.
1975: Krishna Nagar, gali number 3 was the narrowest street of South Delhi. As you get inside the big gate, India Gate, every boulevard kept getting narrower, till he reached home. It was like the aorta to the vein that reaches the tip of your pinky. Fortunately, there were no cars, so there was no parking problem. Scooter was a luxury. He used to play cricket sometimes. It was good fun as they could never lose the ball. It was like playing with walled boundary keepers. The exciting part was the climbing of the walls and the houses, which kept growing as time passed. One floor after another, stacked up, cemented like blocks in Jango. Put many blocks together and it became a Euclidean fractal, room inside a room inside a room. It was good for playing hide and seek and also for flying kites if you decided to climb up the structure. There was always a terrace higher that you could reach too. Some of these terraces had no stairs and some of them had two. The mandir (the Hindu temple) on the street opened on two streets, both gali number ek aur do. The devotees visited twice a day and made sure that they rang enough bells to tell Hanuman Ji, Shiv Ji, Parvati Ji and other Gods and Goddesses that they were there. Everybody on the gali heard the symphony of the bells early morning and early evening, as the music segmented time into pieces .
1987: The story of human ingenuity always reminds me of a Bill Naughton short story I read in school titled ‚seventeen oranges’. Clem Jones’s (the delivery boy at docks) love for oranges puts him in trouble when Pongo the policeman decides to punish him. There was no escape, locked in the hut and with the oranges on the table, Clem had to think of a fast solution before Pongo brought a witness. The inner voice ’Oh, my god! What can I do? Eat the oranges. Eat the evidence. No time to eat, you have to swallow the pips too.’
David C. McClelland an American psychologist theorist in his acquired needs theory proposed that an individual’s specific needs are acquired over time and are shaped by one’s life experiences. Analysis of achievement motives in British school readers showed a strong correlation of these themes, a generation later, with the Britain’s industrial growth. This was approximately thirty to fifty years after the achievement themes of those stories. According to the Prechter, “One of the most indicative elements of culture reflecting a nation’s collective potential for achievement decades before this potential is evidenced in the national economic growth rate is art.
These reflections are not proposed as causes for the development of high or low achievement motivation in the population but merely as indices for measuring national attitude towards it”. In other words, the social environment in which children are raised to regard diligence as a positive or negative good produces at the same time works of art which express this feeling. Visual arts can score levels of achievement motivation. The same achievement motivation level could be measured in the literature of different times. McClelland, in essence, suggests that the level of economic growth of a country is characteristically cyclical. Societies were cyclical. The state of economic growth produces, in its turn economic prosperity. Thus an environment of affluence is created which is conducive to a child dependency and thus a nonachieving oriented child and vice versa. Simply putting the theory suggests that the sketching I was doing in my art classes at school, three decades back could define my future.
2008: I first read Nassim Taleb’s story on the virtue of buying cheap options in 2000. It was a tough time for an option believer in those days in India. Out of my basement stint for an e-broker, which was struggling under startup pressures with “nobody seems to be interested in futures” statement emailed to me, Taleb inspired me at a critical time. I believed in the virtuous inexpensive option strategy but there is a lot about Taleb’s random strategy that troubled me. I finally ended up challenging it.