Complexity is not complicatedness

We casually use these two words interchangeably, but they do not mean the same thing. Usually when people are frustrated by complexity, they are really overwhelmed by complicatedness.

Complexity is valuable, because what comes out of it is greater than the sum of its parts. As Abby Covert says in How to Make Sense of Any Mess, every single thing in the world is complex. When you dig into it, nothing is actually simple.


Golledge, Reginald G. “The Nature of Geographic Knowledge.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, vol. 92, no. 1, 2002, pp. 1–14. Wiley Online Library,

The human brain doesn’t handle extreme diversity well, but it can handle variability, as long as it can find reasons for that variability, to allow it to categorize the variations and associate it with places. Associating a variation with a context is our way of making sense of chaos, and associating with a place is one of the things we are best at. p. 11

Juarrero, Alicia. Complexity Is Not Complicatedness . Deliberate Complexity 2022.

Complicatedness is:

- disordered and randomly entangled parts
- linear cause-effect relationships among large numbers of elements and processes
	- additive
	- theoretically possible to track and predict
Key point: there are no *mutual* dependencies, elements do not change by virtue of being constituents of a coherent totality. 

Complexity is:

- Nonlinear. Output is discontinuous with input.
- The whole is qualitatively different than the sum of its parts.