Does complexity, too much complexity, lead to (or at least contribute toward) insanity? How much complexity can humans deal with without suffering a breakdown of some kind? Is there a limit? Are we currently pushing the envelope on that limit? How would we know? What would be the symptoms?
I grew up in the 1940’s and 50’s when television sets had only two controls (an on-off switch, and a channel selector) and only three channels to choose from. Reception was by way of ‘rabbit ears’ or a roof top antenna. In contrast, my current television ‘set’ is not really a ‘set’ at all; it’s a highly complex system consisting of multiple components, including a cable box, a viewing screen, a video player, a veritable rats nest of wires and cables, and three hand-held devices bearing, collectively, what seems like several hundred buttons of various shapes, colors, and sizes.
When I turn this system on, I often get audio but only flashes of video: on-off, on- off. When this bizarre phenomenon first began occurring, I had little recourse. There were no instructions (of course), and no one at the cable company was able to fix the problem, which, it occurred to me at the time, was a function of runaway complexity. As dumb luck would have it, I discovered that if I pulled a particular cable from the back of one of the boxes, and immediately reinserted it, the problem would disappear… on its own!
Had I not discovered this accidental fix, I would have been faced with having to buy a replacement box – or perhaps an entire set of boxes. In any event, for the past several years now, I have lived in mortal terror that my accidental fix would stop working at a most inopportune moment, such as in the middle of a Patriot’s game with the score tied.