Unintended consequences

The one thing I can guarantee about any complex adaptive system is that whatever you do there will be unintended consequences, and you are ethically responsible for them. 

The larger your intervention, the larger the unintended consequences. 

[Dave Snowden]
'AgileByExample 2017: prof. Dave Snowden - Cynefin in practice'

I’m out working with Tommy Quinn […] He’s lived here in Knockmoyle for all of his life, so his opinions [...] hold weight with me. He asks me what technology I think had the most dramatic impact on life here when he was growing up. I state what I feel are obvious: the television, the motor car and computers. Or electricity in general. Tommy smiles. The flask, he says.

I ask him to explain. When he was growing up in the 1960s, he and his family would go to the bog, along with most of the other families of the parish, to cut turf for fuel for the following winter. They would all help each other out in any way they could, even if they didn’t always fully get on. Cutting turf in the old ways, using a slean, is hard but convivial work, so each day one family would make a campfire to boil the kettle on.

But the campfire had a more significant role than just hydrating the workers. As well as keeping the midges away, it was focal point that brought folk together during important seasonal events. During the day people would have the craic around it as the tea brewed, and in the evenings food would be cooked on it. By nightfall, with the day’s work behind them, the campfire became the place where music, song and dance would spontaneously happen. Before the night was out, one of the old boys would hide one of the young lads’ wheelbarrows, providing no end of banter than following morning.

The one day, out of nowhere, the now commonplace Thermos flask arrived in Knockmoyle. Very handy, Tommy says, and everyone wanted one. Within a short space of time families began boiling up their hot water on the range in their homes, before taking it with them to the bog. After millennia of honest service, the campfire was now obsolete.

[Mark Boyle]
The Way Home, p. 84

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