Reflections on Fractals: The Colour of Infinity movie, part of Living Systems Collaboratory.

Main Ideas

Overall, Fractals seem to be about a pattern “Input –> Output –> Input –> …” Input leads to output that leads to input and it goes on and on to infinity. Universe goes forever if you zoom in and zoom in and zoom in.

Ideas first, applications later. Fractals allow for a better description to observable world. And I feel that the movie was essentially about using fractal geometry as a way of describing data (like a cloud in the sky) in a simple way. Essentially, it gives a simple formula for complexity.

Usefulness of Formulas

Humans these days face so much information overload, so we definitely need some formula to “compress information overload” and navigate complexity of the modern world. 0oo project may have an answer to that with its F(X)Y formula. It seems to me that there are different formulas that all apply in different contexts but all share a desire or purpose to help humans navigate complexity. E.g. Fractal Geometry has its own formula. 0oo has its own formula too. Interesting, isn’t it?


It was described as “simple possible transformation”. So I wonder, what does that mean? How does that apply to human transformations and societal change?

System for Freedom. How do Fractals apply for thinking of “Order and Chaos together”?

How do Fractals apply for creative projects? And for the way humans design products, services and the human world?


Infinite thinking. It’s easy to justify actions with ‘general principles’. Like ‘oh this is how everything works in universe, so we must use it in human lives, in tech, etc’. But is it always the case? What about unknowns of unknowns? What if you/me/we are wrong? And then it sparks cascades of actions.. Can science be ‘general’ or is it always attached to our ‘social’ lives? Because every-thing influences everything.

Social application. From the movie, it seemed that the application of Fractals was technology. I’d love to see social problems explored with such general principles as Fractals. If fractal geometry allows to compress data so that we can use high quality images easier, what if we imagine how fractal geometry can compress data about social problems and solutions in the world? Or am I missing the point of how valuable fractal geometry is? 🙂

Picture of society. The movie also said fractal geometry allows to have a more accurate picture of the world, like a cloud in the sky. So I wonder. It is cool to get a picture of the cloud. But I’m also so curious about human world aka society that no one has a picture of! Could Fractals be applied to see challenges humans face? And then to come up with solutions?

Communities. When watching a movie, I was wondering: How do Fractals apply to the community development? Well if Fractals are universal principles, then it should apply to community as much as it does for technology, right?

Templating creativity. It’s easy to template with general principles. But what about a human error? Randomness that leads to unexpected results? Creativity needs a random too. Or does it? Or are we simply templating the patterns?

Automation. If Fractals are about set of instructions repeated over and over again, where does such thinking make sense?

My overall thought of usefulness of Fractals is: Everything is interesting if you zoom in deeply enough.


Fractals show us nature’s pattern of smaller wholes being reflective of larger wholes in which they are embedded. This is a similar principle to Fuller’s concept of the Trimtab, a small rudder on a larger rudder on a ship, that is the place in a system where the minimum amount of effort causes the maximum effect. What insights can we gain from looking at fractals that can inform how we intervene in systems or otherwise create systems change? How did the film inspired you? How does this connect to your project and your work?

Living Systems Collaboratory

I think it’s about butterfly effects. Small actions accumulate and spark bigger scale change. In the way, I have a quite a clear application of Fractals to one of my projects, Strangers talk between members spark spontaneous cooperations that shape our social habits and contribute to shaping social norms (members repeat “strangers talk” in their circles afterwards).

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