Thursday, May 20, 2010

Civilization is stronger than we think: Structural deficits and complex adaptive systems

The more humans you know, the harder it is to imagine that civilization can endure. Billions of consumers. Environmental collapse. Climate change. Peak Oil. China's gender wars. The falling cost of havoc. The GOP. Skynet, sooner or later.

It looks hopeless, but on the other hand it's been 58 years since the first fusion weapon was detonated - and we're still here. That's surprising.

It's not just technology that we've survived. It seems impossible that democracies can manage their finances, but they do ...

Adam Smith's Money World - Onc is not Enough

... Greece has its debt bail-out, or appears to have, but there’s still that riot-inducing issue of government budget cuts. Is it even feasible for a government to cut its budget by as much as the International Monetary Fund has demanded of Greece? Yes it is very possible -- all too possible, in fact -- according to the IMF’s own study. In the past three decades there have been at least nine instances in which developed nations have cut their structural deficits by at least 10 percent of GDP...

It's true that some nations do better than others, but it's impressive that, faced with doom, even troubled nations like Greece and the US draw back. For example, to our great shame we reelected George W Bush and Richard Cheney. We did not, however, elect John McCain (now sadly demented) and Sarah Palin.

How does reason emerge from chaos?

We don't know, but many suspect it has something to do with the properties of a complex adaptive system. In our case it's a system built of economics and politics and the noise of the disconnected and, perhaps, the cumulative influence of the rational individual. It's a system that is self-sustaining, a system that "wants to live".

The system is hard to measure, but it's strong. It's also a fractal response -- just as civilization is surprisingly robust, so too are its components. Consider the digital economy. Perfect, near zero cost replication was very disruptive -- but the systems is responding. The iPad, the Flash wars, Google TV, "curated computing" -- it's all about the system responding to the disruption. It's all about the Digital Rights Management (DRM). Of which I will say more ...

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