Thursday, May 17, 2012

Acropolis Now

Not with a whimper but a bang. That seems to be the most likely scenario for the end of the eurozone in light of the (endless) crisis in Greece. But I am reminded of Benjamin Disraeli, who observed that:
What we anticipate seldom occurs; what we least expected generally happens.
As for what we anticipate, a recent international opinion poll by the Boston Consulting Group points to a very gloomy future: slim minorities of citizens in the developed world expect their children to live a better life than the present generation. Most expect the economic and financial crisis to get worse, not better. Anxiety about the future is high and even rising.

But what if Disraeli is right? What if the thing we most anticipate (me included) - that the eurozone drama can only end in a very nasty rupture - doesn't happen? What is 'least expected'? I guess a muddle-through resolution to the crisis that gives way to some other source of anxiety (a comeback for global warming would be a welcome relief...)

Robin Hanson is channelling Disraeli in a recent post on Eventual Futures. He notes that many recommendations for action in the present are based upon the idea that something must 'eventually' happen. Extrapolation as anticipation. As he puts it:
The common pattern: project forward a current trend to an extreme, while assuming other things don’t change much, and then recommend an action which might make sense if this extreme change were to happen all at once soon.  
This is usually a mistake. The trend may not continue indefinitely. Or, by the time a projected extreme is reached, other changes may have changed the appropriate response. Or, the best response may be to do nothing for a long time, until closer to big consequences. Or, the best response may be to do nothing, ever – not all negative changes can be profitably resisted.
So, what could 'ending with a whimper' look like in a year's time?

1 comment:

  1. Although (as suggested in The Black Swan) - what is anticipated simply isn't noticed when it does happen - because it was anticipated.

    "This is usually a mistake. The trend may not continue indefinitely. Or, by the time a projected extreme is reached, other changes may have changed the appropriate response.". Is that not the Climate Change Denier's mantra?

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...