Comments on “Ten Net Assessment Questions”

Posted in Global Net Assessment



John Minehan offers his commentary on our course questions. My responses are highlighted in red.


2.  Ones that would be “slate-wipers” almost have to be either planned and cleverly executed or unforeseen accidents.  Single vector issues are too easy to prevent if foreseen. The exact point of positing single vector scenarios is to bring home the power of what really awaits us. If we can entertain, and then get beyond, the single vector, “disaster movie” posters, then maybe we can have a more mature conversation. There is a utility of virtue in positing the thing that won’t happen.
5.  Taleb would say you need  have to have a systemic bias toward “Anti-fragility,” rather than defenses per se.  That approach is also cheaper except for opportunity costs.  (Something George Will gets that Taleb doesn’t, if you read Fooled by Randomness). Agreed, but we don’t have anything right now: Not a strategy of defense, nor equally, a strategy to promote resilience (or anti-fragility). We have nothing.
8.  Different factors will come to the fore in different societies, but people will “cling to their guns and religion” when things fall apart. Yes, when things “fall apart,” people reach out for existential comfort. Here “guns and religion” do well as placeholders for security and meaning in a world under terrible stress. In a crisis, this is surely what we might expect: Initially. But does society, after the full crisis moment has passed, reorganize and regroup? Of course! But how long does it take? This is where the Dark Ages multiple metaphors come into play.
9. Not so much “Societies” but sub-cultures within them. All societies are bundles of sub-cultures. The issue is how the disparate sub-cultures that constitute our society continue to agree to hang together. If they do not, then sub-culture becomes the new definition of “society,” and this becomes token of  a rapid devolution. But subcultures in America, for example, may be stronger than that under stress. What we don’t have a good sense of is where and when sub-cultures abandon the larger whole in an effort to preserve their own identity and existential welfare. This is a key question to system subsidence, as you point out. A world of societies that moves strongly to a world of sub-cultures (tribes and communities) is a human place not simply in subsidence, but collapse.
10.  I think the bias my be towards assuming Systems are weaker than we assume, rather than stronger.