Balance is an Illusion

Tim Klapdor, Sept 07, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes

This isn't directly related to educational technology, but it's a point that lies at the foundations of how we thing, and it's important to address a misconception. Tim Klapdor writes, "For many of us balance has become a pervasive goal in our lives.... The problem is balance is a state so infinitesimal, so fleeting and ephemeral that it is more like a mirage than an object." He's talking about things like work-life balance, but the influence of balance is global, informing everything from the way water settles to (for example) the 'settling' phenomenon in neural networks. Balance, as Klapdor says, isn't a state, but that doesn't mean it's an illusion. It's an attractor - and when you start finding yourself with complex systems, it's a strange attractor, doing the drunkard's walk (which is what makes sports so interesting) (it's like if you roll a marble in a hole - gravity makes the bottom of the hole an attractor; it influences the direction of the marble - but if you have more than one planet and varying gravity, then what counts as the 'bottom' is always changing, and so therefore are the influences on the roll of the marble).


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