This one goes every which way, as we continue variations on our theme, and discuss the human desire for stability and predictability from many angles.

 We touch on nassim nicholas taleb and black swan events,  the buddhist marks of existance, james lovelock and the three legged stool of gaia, metastability vs equilibrium,  the futility of prediction, and the dangers of waking up out of the swarm.

podcast page here

 Direct download: TME2.5-The_illusion_of_safety.mp3

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10 thoughts on “The Mosaic Effect: season 2, episode 5: the illusion of safety

  1. Love where the series is headed Zach.

    I still think that a lot of people don’t get just how much everything is an inter-related system. Everything follows a weird mix of systems theory, network theory and information theory. These systems seem to remain fairly stable until a “black swan” type event comes along and changes everything. I mean, who could have predicted the effect that the internet would have before it came along.

    I think what is different with the present state of the world is that the activities of the swarm are not going to leave the system functioning in its equilibrium state, but by degrading the world around us in a major way we are going to break the system so that it does end in a dead state. Perhaps it will take a few drones to wake up and yell at our fellow worker bees so that people look at the system as a whole and see what they are doing to it…. Shit now i sound like every other idealist out there…

  2. I dunno. I’m sure you know that something as complex as this functions as a dissipative structure, so when it breaks down, it’s very likely to reform, sometimes at a higher level, even.

    not to pick on anyone, but more and more this catastrophic mentality seems like a cop-out, a way to escpe the burden of making postive changes or embracing the engineering task of improving the world.

  3. I understand what you are saying zach, I don’t think that the world is definately doomed or that we have gone past some “point of no return”. Its just that as now we have completely dominated the natural world and are degrading it at an exponential rate that the % chance of completely destroying our life support system may have gone up one or two points. But certainly nothing is a given. People should still work towards the way they believe things should be.

    In the past is was a little bit easier for structures like cities or countries or ethnic groups to dissapate and move somewhere else to reform, but there in the developed world there is nowhere for people to go.

    All that said I think that it is going to be inevitable that the consumerist, imperialist mentality out there is going to have to dissipate at some stage and be replaced by something that treats all systems to be considered (environment, economy, health, mental health etc) in a more holistic or optimised way.

  4. “embracing the engineering task of improving the world.”

    Sure, but if I understood correctly the black swan ‘theory’, how can we specifically engineer something to improve the world, if we can’t predict the outcome of our action? I understand that improving yourself is always a good idea, but when we are to act, how do we decide what to do?

    Shall we remain a bird in the swarm, just looking to the bird in front of us? Let’s say we have the power to act on a greater level. Shall we abstain? I find this rather depressing. At the same time, it is comfortable. But not very much when you see the swarm head into what looks like a dire direction. You want to steer it, then, this is human. But according to what you said, we stand less than chance if we act this way, better stay in the swarm.

    Is the solution to engineer a black swan? And see what happens next. After all, some black swan must be more beneficial than others, problem is to pick the correct one, but then… Urobos situation 🙂

  5. I think the whole black swan “theory” is just that there can be no actual theory, there can be no way to 100% accurately predict the outcome of your action. If you cannot decide what to do, then you improve yourself until you can.

    What would it mean to be in the swarm and not just look at the bird in front of you? If you are in the swarm, you have to look at the bird in front of you. Otherwise you’re not in the swarm, you are (in your own head anyway) pulling yourself outside the swarm. If you can improve your sense of the swarm to the point where you can see the bird in front of you, and the bird in front of that bird, etc etc, then perhaps you can begin to see how to adjust the behavior of the swarm.

    Being a swarm, it won’t just move in one direction, it will fluctuate. As it fluctuates, you choose the fluctuation that steers the swarm in the direction that you think would be best for it to go, and you emphasize that fluctuation as you pass it on to the rest of the swarm.

    And of course, with the idea of impermanence and the black swan theory, you can never know exactly what effect you will have, nor what direction the swarm “should” be going with anything close to 100% accuracy. That is why it is best to act compassionately, because doing so takes into account the most data possible when planning the action. To act selfishly is simply to limit your field of choices.

  6. Well, it was a relief in a sense, because this is so disempowering.

    I think that you sure can’t be able to calculate all the outcomes of complex problems. But I think also that you can develop your intuition enough to know what you should do in those cases where there are just too many variables. Tarot and I Ching when used regularly open you up to the underlying mechanisms too.

    If the brain, a slow but massively parallel huge analogic computer, can make 10^80 connections, as biology shows, it should theoretically be able to models half faithfully the world we’re living in, and give you above than chance directions.

  7. Hi Zac! Months since I’ve checked in (got waylayed by unpredictability), and hit on two connected podcasts.

    I like the paradoxical notion that “being the change you want to see” does affect change outwardly. To affect social systems while one’s eyes are focused inward, means others have eyes which do notice (or sense) in the day-to-day “swarm” of human events we all participate in.

    Next, given the axiom that “past performance predicts future outcome” – the wheel of fortune which goes round and round – nothing changes in this Euclidean geometry until the human element is introduced, and linear space and time can be warped and bent by determined individual and collective will.

    Surprised you haven’t written a book yet!

  8. I’d consider it, but none of these ideas are really mine… I suppose I could present it as some scholarly thesis, but then I’d have to cite quotations and sources and all that malarky.

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