Understanding chaos is like weighing a vacuum

I’ve just finished a fascinating Forbes article on Google, Chaos by Design. While the information contained in the piece is interesting and worth the read, I was struck by the writer’s attempt to understand — as in quantify — a company management that embraces the word “chaos.” I think such “understanding” is an impossible task, and it forms one of my core beliefs in studying the cultural drift to postmodernism. If you close your eyes, for example, you can “be” anywhere; open them and you’re where you are. One needs to suspend some logic and reason to paradoxically “make sense” of such a big, five-letter word.

The writer, Adam Lashinsky, is very fair in this task. Judgments are more subliminal than overt, but it’s still a case of logic versus chaos. For me, then, this isn’t so much a story about Google as it is a revealing story about culture and philosophy. There are plenty of people who want Google to fail, and most of them have a dog in the fight. Attempts to understand Google, therefore, are really an exercise in “figuring it out” so as to duplicate it or compete against it. This is pure modernism and the chasing of one’s tail.

From a purely modernist perspective, if Google ever collapses or is dismantled by the government, observers will point to various business (logical) reasons for its success or failure (success and failure are, after all, logical concepts). From a postmodernist perspective, however, Google’s success or failure is irrelevant. It has already dramatically altered culture, and the extent to which it is rewarded monetarily is proportional to its service to the culture. The company’s lofty mission, let us not forget, is to organize the world’s information and make it easily accessible. This gives it high status in a postmodern culture but makes it a horrific villain in a modernist world view, the institutions of which exist as a result of protected knowledge and information.

Success in chaos may, in fact, be a logical failure, and the important factor is which carries more real weight in the world we perceive. Postmodernism, for all its intellectual proponents and opponents, deals much more with the world of the human spirit than anyone cares to admit, and this is an unknown sphere. Logic and reason aren’t God (modernism) and neither is He an untouchable, anthropomorphized being sitting on some cosmic throne (premodernism). So what’s left? This question is what excites me so about the new era into which humankind is now entering, and it’s what gives me so much hope for tomorrow.

C. S. Lewis wrote that human beings are like amphibians — capable of living in two worlds at the same time. This belief challenges our senses and confounds logic and reason, because the only place these worlds come together is here, and the only time they come together is now. It’s the old “angels on the head of a pin” conundrum. We dismiss such problems as chaotic and move on with our modern lives.

And as I’ve said a hundred times, postmodernism won’t “replace” modernism anymore than modernism replaced premodernism. It’s more about the growth and maturation of the human experience, for we are all spiritual beings on this very human journey.


  1. I will never understand the creative chaotic minds at Google — but I can’t get enough of what they do. Just like the world through a blogs eye view…it IS about the human experience — its many facets. The never ending mash-up of logic+reason+emotion+imagination. Thanks for the great post, Terry.

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