Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ The Art of Complex Problem Solving

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community
This is a very good presentation of complex problems and how they are addressed. The designer effectively captures many aspects of complex problems and, most importantly, demonstrates how they are different from technical problems (and this is the basis of the argument against measuring instructors and schools by educational outcomes - it is effectively the treating of complex problems as technical problems).

The diagram emphasizes the role of visual imagery in the solving of complex problems, which is not surprising, as the author is an artist. However, it is important to stress that the process is one of pattern recognition, and not merely imagery. Not to sell imagery short - it is a powerful means of facilitating pattern recognition. But it is limited by dimensionality (notice though how nicely the artist moves us through several dimensions in this diagram). Patterns can be extra-dimensional. Consider, for example, the representation of 'will' and 'intent'. For this reason, it is important to remember that the diagram is a representation of a pattern, and not the pattern itself.

I also want to highlight one major correction that should be made to the diagram. The presumption is that there is a single path from the problem to the solution - the red line in the process diagram. This is represented with the single 'client' in the diagram, who presents a single message to the set of implementers. This allows the author to say that the problem is solved by "the emergent result of many coordinated actions". An emergent result, certainly. However, because the implementors are autonomous, they hear the communications of numerous 'clients' and base their actions on these multiple parallel models.

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Jun 24, 2024 02:46 a.m.

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