The illusion of control

Nature presents alternatives to the human obsession of control.

Swans adapt to change rather than seek to control it.

Swans adapt to rather than control change.

Last night I am in bed floating on an increasingly stormy threatening ocean, afraid I would fall into the dark cold waters to my doom.  It was a dream, the bed my sense of security, the ocean the chaotic universe.  To my relief my dream bed grew larger and the ocean calmer.  We all need security, but the process of control to achieve this sense of security is wrong.

Energy systems

The universe is composed of layers of energy systems.  “Panta Rhei!” announced the philosopher Heraclitus as he observed that the natural state of the universe is to flow, move, change.  The energy in the energy systems naturally favours strife, renewal and creation.  The purpose of all life is to live, grow and create.  The design of all life is movement. Energy moves, be it as a form of money, water, food, heat, knowledge; in fact everything is in a state of becoming, motion and change.  Nothing is still.

The illusion of control

Then comes humanity with their illusions of control.  Humanity entertains the delusion that the universe is deterministic, that at any given moment humanity can know everything there is to know about an energy system; in reality all energy systems feed into each other, have hidden parts, have a state of complexity of anything more than three variables that makes it impossible for even the fastest of human computers to calculate the true state of a system at any one moment. Another human delusion is that energy systems are dead cold mechanical systems thus easy to determine and control; in reality all energy systems are chaotic, living and self organising; energy systems that are destroying, renewing and creating new forms of itself.  In such energy systems the smallest change of a variable causes a large overall outcome in a system.

The danger of abstraction

Control obsessed humanity abstracts complex energy systems down to simple self-confirming illusions of control.  What will reach the ground first, a sack of feathers or a sack of apples each a ton? In an abstraction only using gravity as a variable humanity proudly declares both will arrive at the same time; however they leave out friction and air currents which can have a large unpredictable impact on the outcome. If you are unable to determine outcomes in systems, you are unable to control the system.

The danger of determinism

The process humanity uses to control the energy flow in an energy system is by forcing it to be deterministic.  This process leads to obstructions, stagnation and interference with the strife, renewal and creative aspects of energy flow in a system.  Humanity even talks about controlling the weather to achieve favourable outcomes, not realising that any attempt to interfere with energy flow in the weather will cause the entire energy system to break down.  Often by control humanity slows or even stops the energy flow altogether.  All energy systems are healthy because of the flow of energy through them in a cycle of potential-kinetic-potential-kinetic-repeat. If this cycle of flow of energy is blocked the entire system turns entropic and breaks down.  It also wastes large sums of energy fighting against the flow of energy systems.

Control leads to sick energy systems

Practically all human processes are focussed on command and control, which leads to the flow of money, energy, food, water, information being paralysed or slowed.  All energy systems that relies on this sort of energy flow starts to break down according to the laws of thermodynamics.  Look at the effects of the vast control systems on the human information and money systems due to 9-11 and the credit crunch.  Look at the children where fear of child abuse, road traffic accidents, of health and safety has the outcome of childhood obesity, allergies, mental health issues and eye sight problems.  How liberty, creativity and wisdom has been devastated in children and the human society thanks to the obsession of control.  Where energy is flowing in an energy system it is healthy, when it is controlled to the point the energy is no longer naturally flowing, sickness is the result.

Nature has the answer

What is the answer? Look to nature.  Nothing in nature is controlling energy flow, instead it uses defence and attack strategies to capture energy.  All plants and animals establish territories that contain enough energy resources to satisfy their needs, they never try to mess with the energy flow, they tap into it.  The purpose of all life is to live, grow and create; all which requires energy.  All strategies in life are focussed on energy; all life aggressively and creatively captures energy, uses the energy efficiently and conserves energy.  Energy impacts life processes and purposes, ultimately determining who survives and prospers.

All plants and animals won’t control energy flow, they adapt to changes in the energy system.  When the lake in Castle Park Colchester froze over recently all the ducks headed off to the river; when snow hit Castle Park, all the squirrels vanished to their nests; even the children adapted to changing weather conditions in Castle Park by indulging in snowman building and sledging.

Fighting against energy systems costs energy

To fight against an energy system costs energy.  A plant and animal follows the rule of least resistance where they follow a strategy that costs the least amount of energy.  All life will rapidly adapt with new strategies to changing situations in an energy system, for instance some birds will turn cannibal if food runs out.  Genetically all life will mutate their DNA rapidly to environmental changes, with viruses being the fastest adapters (thus a warning if bat species are exterminated, as the viruses from bats will jump to humans to survive, for example like Ebola and SARS.)


In summary nothing in nature seeks to control energy flow, but rather adapts and uses strategies to capture, use and conserve energy in an efficient manner.  All life follows the principle of least resistance following the strategy that uses the least amount of energy to achieve an outcome.  The purpose of all life is to live, grow and to create; all which requires energy.  All life carves out spaces with enough energy resources to sustain them, which they will defend aggressively and creatively.

The stupidity of humanity and its choice

Only humanity could be stupid enough to waste energy attempting to control energy flow in energy systems, thus undermining the whole energy system that humanity depends on to survive. I dream that humanity will wake up and learn from nature, for like in my dream the outcome will be that humanity risks falling out of bed into the abyss of no return.


12 responses to “The illusion of control

  1. [ Smiles ] Fascinating! You had a dream where you had the fear of falling into the dark cold water; but you didn’t because your bed grew larger than the ocean; I would say that it was a good dream since you remained safe in that dream, yet you saw it as a false sense of security.

    For the record, you made valid points in your insightful article.

    Yes, I agree that the concept of control is somewhat a false one.

    Have a nice and enjoyable weekend, Alex.

  2. Too bad humans choose to adapt to the control systems that will eventually fail. Ultimately making humans unable to adapt back to natural energy systems when our current attempts at controlling nature fall apart and nature takes the.power back.

    • It is going to be messy when the illusion of control is finally shattered with the predictable collapse of energy systems.

      • I can see a Mad Max scenario in my head. Hope I’m wrong and it doesn’t get to that point.

      • Regrettably I am unable to see the mass of humanity changing direction from their unsustainable path, so energy systems will take a fall, thus leading to chaos. It is through this hopefully temporary anarchy that new attitudes and ideas will be born. It may be worth preparing for the possibility of some disruption in the future.

  3. Reblogged this on Awakestate.

  4. Great post Alex. Well thought out.
    I find it very interesting that your realisations here harmonise with the Eastern Taoist philosophies.
    Taoism advocates not attempting to control things, but rather to learn how to change your ways in order that you harmonise with things.
    Bruce Lee would say “Be like water, my friend…” meaning that water has the property of being able to flow around any object without detriment to itself. However, it also has the property of patience in that it can erode a hard substance over a long period of time.
    I wonder if the human preoccupation of seeking control is, in part, driven by a lack of patience. What we want, we want now!
    A Lion trainer in a circus has to slowly and patiently train a lion to do his bidding. If he were to take on a new lion and expect results in a day, in all likelihood, he’ll be minus a head!
    He has to have the patience to slowly wear down the lion’s instinct to kill him. …he has to be like a river on its way to creating a spectacular gorge.

    The need to control is in our nature, and as you said ‘Control is one of the hardest illusions to crack.’

    • I have read a few books on Taoism and I would agree that all its principles are applicable to working with rather than against the universe.

      My observations came from watching nature, and I reckon those that formulated the philosophy of Taoism did the same thing.

      I will have to reread the ideas of Taoism since it has been many years since I read it.

      Part of the symptoms of control is the delusion of instant results, made easy with the crazy society we live in of convenience. For instance making bread can be a messy slow process, so people pay someone else to do it for seemingly instant results.

  5. Pingback: The illusion of control … | Clear Mind Thinking …

  6. Pingback: The illusion of control … | Clear Mind

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