Socionomic and Antifragile potpourri

Able to post regularly again, for how long who knows.

Highly recommend Nassim Taleb's Antifragility. I wouldn't describe it as a self-help book, but many of the ideas in the book can be applied to daily life, as well as to business and government and everything in between.

Below is a 1 hour interview with Taleb that is chock full of ideas.

One of the ideas in Antifragility is signal to noise. He uses the example of news, most of it is noise. He says that many days, news should be a couple of lines, and other days it should be pages and pages. In order to fill up time and space, however, news is filled with lots of noise. He gives the example of 1-to-1 signal to noise in one year. That is, you check the major news for the year and half is signal, half is noise. Well, on a daily basis, the signal to noise ratio will be something like 1 to 99.

Back in 2010, I often wrote about the political problems in the EU and the likelihood of a breakup. I have tried to cover major developments such as extreme parties in Greece, Scottish and Catalonian secession movements, but otherwise I view these stories as confirming the signal. Unless something changes, I don't feel the need to cover every blip along the trend. Occasionally, I write about it to remind myself or for new readers, but otherwise I'm not interested until the trend changes. EU breakup is still on.

Similarly, I covered Egypt's problems last year. Literally one year ago, I posted: Egypt heading for collapse. I see news such as this: Egypt's protests reveal deficit of trust in Muslim Brotherhood as confirming the socionomic theory and the signal. It wasn't noise. If I'm wrong or something changes, it is worth writing about, otherwise Egypt is still headed for collapse.

Now there is ethnic cleansing in Los Angeles. This is an early stage movement and has major, major implications for American politics because it ties into the secession movement. There could very well be a Mexican secession movement in the Southwest before the South ever gets around to declaring independence. In any event, it is a marker for what is possible as social mood declines, with serious interracial violence in the cards in places such as LA.

Finally, China is enjoying a small bounce in social mood evidences by the stock market rally, but mood remains generally negative. In What Causes Revolutions?, Patrick Chovanec writes:
A surprising number of people in China have been writing and talking about “revolution”. First came word, in November, that China’s new leaders have been advising their colleagues to read Alexis de Tocqueville’s classic book on the French Revolution, L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution (The Old Regime and the Revolution), which subsequently has shot to the top of China’s best seller lists. Just this past week, Chinese scholar Zhao Dinxing, a sociology professor at the University of Chicago, felt the need to publish an article (in Chinese) laying out the reasons China won’t have a revolution (you can read an English summary here). Minxin Pei, on the other hand, thinks it will.
He goes on to quote Richard Pipes:
So, around 1900, we have a mechanically rather than organically structured state that denies the population any voice in government, and yet, at the same time, aspires to the status of a global power. This aspiration compels it to promote industrial development and higher education, which has the inevitable effect of shifting much opinion and the power to make decisions to private citizens. Pre-1905 tsarism thus suffered from an irreconcilable contradiction. A not-insignificant segment of the population received secondary and higher education, acquiring, in the process, Western attitudes, and yet it was treated as being on the same level with the illiterate peasantry, that is, unfit to participate in the affairs of state. Capitalist industrialists and bankers made major decisions affecting the country’s economy and employment, yet had no say in that country’s politics because politics was the monopoly of the bureaucracy …

The result was a situation which Marx had rightly predicted had to arise when the political form — in this case, heavily centralized and static — no longer corresponded to the socio-economic context — increasingly dispersed and dynamic. Such a situation is by its very nature fraught with explosive potential. In 1982 [Pipes writes], when I worked in the National Security Council, I was asked to contribute ideas to a major speech that President Reagan was scheduled to deliver in London. My contribution consisted of a reference to Marx’s dictum that, when there develops a significant disparity between the political form and the socio-economic context, the prospect is revolution. This disparity, however, had now developed in the Soviet Union, not in the capitalist West. President Reagan inserted this thought into his speech, and the reaction in Moscow was one of uncontrolled fury: this, of course, was a language they well understood and interpreted to mean a declaration of political war against the Communist Bloc. Their anger was enhanced by the awareness that the statement was correct, that they were ruling in a manner that did not correspond to either the economic or the cultural level of their population.

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