Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


John Robb on Big Bangs

In Big Bangs, John Robb uses complex aircraft dynamics as a fascinating metaphor for society:

If we look at today’s global environment we see a moderately unstable system. It is a relatively high performance system that is increasingly controlled by global markets. This explains why it is spreading so quickly. However, our drive towards a high performances system powered by rampant global interconnectivity has outpaced our ability to dampen excess. The old dampening functions of borders, distance, government, etc are quickly fading. The result is a system vulnerable to rogue feedback. Even a small amount of it can cause global reverberations. Worse, there are people actively working on ways to introduce this rogue feedback. Iraq is a great demonstration of our inability to dampen excess in the face of active opposition (notice how our goals have drifted from building an allied democracy to stopping civil war).

The long-term solution is to build more stability into the system through decentralization. Unfortunately, we are far from realizing that goal, since our current view of the world is based on old models.

Go read the whole thing. I’d take this a step further, and add suggest that the key to stabilization is to enumerate those things which are worth keeping while we let everything else go chaotic.

For example, I’d like voting systems I can trust and audit. I think those are important. I think free speech is important, along with democracy, liberty, and the rule of law. We need institutions which control changes to those things, while letting chaos erupt in other ways. (I’d say a lot more, but I owe Kim Cameron a response, and have things to do today which are not blogging.)