Para Limes stopped its Singaporean activities in April 2018. It formally restarted in Europe in September 2018, but it took the first 18 months to get itself reacquainted with the European scene and find a basis from which to launch new activities. Now it is back, in a different setting and in a world that is facing change and uncertainty as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds.
In Singapore, Para Limes was funded by Nanyang Technological University (NTU). While working under the umbrella of its president, Bertil Andersson, it developed a unique brand of conferences and workshops. These events focused on different ways to look at complex systems by illuminating characteristic aspects of complexity (see past events to get an idea of the width, depth and quality of these conferences). Para Limes aimed to identify burning questions and crystalise new ways of doing science to address them. In the process, it built a unique network with world class speakers (scientists, artists, philosophers and people of practice) who think and operate far beyond the boundaries of traditional disciplines and organisational silos.
That network forms the basis for the activities Para Limes is developing in Europe. To give it a legal umbrella, Para Limes set up a not-for-profit foundation under Dutch law with a simple governance structure. At the same time, it looked for secure and independent funding. Hence, we opened the possibility for you to support us financially.
Dealing with complexity is what Para Limes is about. In Singapore, its focus was naturally drawn to essential questions related to complexity and complexity science. In Europe, its focus has shifted to existential problems. To find effective ways to address such problems, we need to recognise them for what they are: manifestations of the unpredictable behavior of complex systems. Any planned interference with such a system that does not take into account and respect its complexity, is bound to fail and cause unexpected problems.
In the 2013 Para Limes conference, A Crude Look at the Whole, the late Murray Gell-Mann approached it like this: “Our world can be seen as a huge complex system consisting of an enormous number of interacting natural, social and artificial complex systems. We cannot successfully analyse this system “by determining in advance a set of properties or aspects that are studied separately and then recombining those partial approaches in an attempt to form a picture of the whole. Instead, it is necessary to look at the whole system, even if it means taking a crude look, and then allowing possible simplifications to emerge from the work”.
Taking crude looks at the whole will be the focus of Para Limes activities in the coming years. An indication of such activities are the ideas for future events.
Jan W. Vasbinder is the Executive Director of Para Limes.