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Characteristics of Complex Systems

Conflicts arise between short-term and long-term goals

Explore CLE lessons that exemplify this characteristic

Conflicts arise between short-term and long-term goals

In complex systems there are tradeoffs between short-term and long-term goals. What is achievable or desirable within a short timeframe can reveal problematic consequences in the fullness of time. Conversely, concentrating on a future payoff almost always involves sacrifice in the present.

  • Indulging a sweet tooth provides immediate pleasure, but may detract from future health, particularly to teeth and waistlines.



  • Many years of living below one’s financial means can build wealth over time, leading to a higher future standard of living. The opposite situation can be illustrated by using credit cards to live beyond present financial means. The future standard of living is likely to be worse when the debt plus interest must be repaid.



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