- Paperback: 306 pages
- Publisher: Knowledge Press; 1 edition (May 30, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0965632822
- ISBN-13: 978-0965632829
- Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 6.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #314,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Making Things Work: Solving Complex Problems in a Complex World 1st Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Maybe if you are very theoric you would appreciate the tentative to exhaust the subject before moving on to the next topic.
The two that really caught my eye were an otherwise throwaway bit about Macedonian phalanxes that displayed some ignorance, and...
On p156, in the discussion on how easy it would be to drastically reduce medical errors with one fix, there's a horrible mathematical/probability error. It proposes a hypothetical ten-step process to medical procedures, with a 1% error at each INDEPENDENT step (this is important) leading to an overall ~10% chance of error [no error = (1-0.01)^10 = 90.4%] being applied to the patient. His easy solution is to introduce redundancy at just one step, making that one step's likelihood of error 1% of 1%, or 0.01%; which is a correct construction. However, he then goes on to say that this one adjustment would reduce the total, final chance of error to 99.9%... and this is TOTALLY INCORRECT. It's EMBARRASSING. Such an adjustment would make the final chance of error 8.7% [no error = (1-.01)^9*(1-.0001) = 91.3%], a relative reduction of 9% and an absolute reduction of 0.9%, not his calculated relative reduction of 99% and absolute reduction of 9.9%. He (apparently) incorrectly assumed that this one redundancy would reduce errors at all steps to 0.01%, rather than just one step, and this after stressing that these are independent events. He spends the next two pages talking about how this one single step would be so easy and current reduction methods are inadequate, when in actuality to get his proposed reduction of total error would take redundancies at all TEN steps, rather than at just one. This was the error that had me shaking my head and going back to re-read the passage about Alexander I'd passed over earlier.
It's difficult to stress how fundamentally WRONG this error is. This isn't nitpicking; the nature of following two chapters of discussions about errors and complexity hinge on understanding what are, and are not independent factors. To miss this through goodness knows how many rounds of proof-reading made me seriously question the mathematical underpinnings of what's being discussed throughout the entire work.
While overall the book was interesting, the errors above had me wondering how much of his discussion of systems application to the real world was actually relevant. The topic itself is an engaging one and I appreciate the numerous abstract discussions throughout, but I have serious doubts about the applications and proposed prescriptions for ailing systems that takes up the latter half of the book because I cannot be sure the author and his numerous colleagues and proof-readers understand what the heck they're actually talking about.
Part I explains concepts central to complex systems, such as: parts, wholes and relationships; patterns; networks and collective memory; possibilities; and evolution. The second and major part of the book focuses on how we can apply complex systems ideas to help solve such major real-world challenges as: military warfare and conflict; health care (the system and errors); learning and the educational system; international development; enlightened evolutionary engineering; and global control, ethnic violence and terrorism. The first hurdle is to comprehend these problems using our knowledge of complex systems and then begin to address them using a complex systems framework.
The book is intellectually refreshing and bold. Its content is expansive, enlightening, and mind-stimulating.