Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Bye-bye sweet spot

Theorists of complex systems -- the weather, the internet, the global economy, biological evolution -- tell us that everything interesting happens at the zone between order and chaos, what has been called the "sweet spot of greatest adaptability."

We came to this little Bahamian island a dozen years ago looking for that sweet spot -- just enough order in the form of modern infrastructure to make life reasonably comfortable, but still enough chaos to keep us on our creative toes and provide an element of surprise.

But like the other places we have chosen to live our lives, things change. Seven homes for American millionaires are going up next door, in our otherwise modest and mixed-race neighborhood. It sometimes seems like chaos during construction, but it is really order that is imposing itself on the island -- gated communities, air-conditioning, a US-style supermarket (although, of course, on a much smaller scale), telecommunications that reliably work, a car-parts supplier that may have just the part you need, outdoor lighting that obliterates the stars, natural dunes by the sea bulldozed to make place for temperature-controlled swimming pools, restaurants that cater to people exactly like you.

And so this sweet spot of adaptability will be lost, and with it the expectation of creative novelty. (More tomorrow.)