James Edward Johnson

my thoughts from right to left

We cannot understand complex systems.

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I work in hospital finance.  One of my duties is to adjust hospital prices.  Hospital pricing is part of an obscenely complex system.

The reason why I am skeptical of anyone who has answers on healthcare is that I don’t know the answers with any certainty.  Even someone in my position cannot completely understand the why and how of hospital finance and healthcare costs.  We make a lot of assumptions and proceed to do our jobs.  We don’t worry about getting things right – we worry about getting things close.  If we aren’t close enough, we nudge our decisions away from the error.

There are many far more complex systems in the world.  The system I deal with is entirely man-made.  Nature is far more complex.

That is why I was not surprised to read this:

An upper layer of Earth’s atmosphere recently collapsed in an unexpectedly large contraction, the sheer size of which has scientists scratching their heads, NASA announced Thursday.
The layer of gas – called the thermosphere – is now rebounding again. This type of collapse is not rare, but its magnitude shocked scientists.

via Earth’s upper atmosphere collapses. Nobody knows why. – Christian Science Monitor

The only thing that is terribly shocking is that we believe we can predict atmospheric change and weather any better than we could if we simply looked in the past and assumed it would be the same as before.  The atmosphere is a huge and complex thing.  There is a reason why long term weather forecasts revert to historical averages … the meteorologists do not know any better about a week from today than does The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Personally, I do think we need to do certain things to prepare for climate change.  However, whenever anyone asserts that they know the future of the climate, they are probably either lying or overconfident.  Carbon dioxide will warm the atmosphere by preventing heat losses to space.  However, there is a huge distance between such observations and the bizarrely specific statements about what will and will not happen as a result of man-made global warming.  We need to be prepared for potential future risks, but we should not pretend that we understand such complex systems well enough to predict the need for anything other than general readiness.


Written by JamesEJ

Friday, July 16, 2010 at 8:01 am

Posted in history

Tagged with , ,

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