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"OH WATERS, TEEM WITH MEDICINE TO KEEP MY BODY SAFE FROM HARM, SO THAT I MAY LONG SEE THE SUN." - Rig Veda
I believe it’s no wonder that our world is in trouble. We currently lack the global systems science needed to understand our world, which is now changing more quickly than we can collect the experience required to cope with upcoming problems. We can also not trust our intuition, since the complex systems we have created behave often in surprising, counter-intuitive ways. Frequently, their properties are not determined by their components, but their interactions. Therefore, a strongly coupled world behaves fundamentally different from a weakly coupled world with independent decision-makers. Strong interactions tend to make the system uncontrollable – they create cascading effects and extreme events.
As a consequence of the transition to a more and more strongly coupled world, we need to revisit the underlying assumptions of the currently prevailing economic thinking. In the following, I will discuss 10 widespread assertions, which would work in a perfect economic world with representative agents and uncorrelated decisions, where heterogeneity, decision errors, and time scales do not matter. However, they are apparently not well enough suited to depict the strongly interdependent, diverse, and quickly changing world, we are facing, and this has important implications. Therefore, we need to ‘think out of the box’ and require a paradigm shift towards a new economic thinking characterized by a systemic, interaction-oriented perspective inspired by knowledge about complex, ecological, and social systems. As Albert Einstein noted, long-standing problems are rarely solved within the dominating paradigm. However, a new perspective on old problems may enable new mitigation strategies.
I stock sugar in my nightstand and still I fear
sleep. I fear my sugar will drop to a drip
in my brain, barely enough to make it run,
to make sweat bead across my forehead,
to make me incomprehensible, inconsolable,
a pillow amongst pillows, a mass of mess,
because what is a body that no longer wants.
In sleep, my body wants to remain
my body, wants to get up, raise the curtains,
watch the trash truck track a trail of newspapers
around the corner, out of the neighborhood,
and into the mountains people here believe
we came from—the back of one dark well.
Rise, our first bodies said, out of bed,
but sometimes mine will not. Sometimes
it must be my daughter who shakes me enough
to open the lid of my life and eat
the round raspberry or strawberry or grape tabs
that dissolve on my tongue like absolutions.
What is a body that doesn’t rise, what is a daughter
to do but wait by the bed, go downstairs, pour
Cheerios, grab a coloring book and draw
square upon square until it becomes a house
with a tree out front, a long driveway,
a basketball hoop, a light shining from the upstairs
bedroom, which must mean in any world
someone is awake.
As Heine, Norenzayan, and Henrich furthered their search, they began to find research suggesting wide cultural differences almost everywhere they looked: in spatial reasoning, the way we infer the motivations of others, categorization, moral reasoning, the boundaries between the self and others, and other arenas. These differences, they believed, were not genetic. The distinct ways Americans and Machiguengans played the ultimatum game, for instance, wasn’t because they had differently evolved brains. Rather, Americans, without fully realizing it, were manifesting a psychological tendency shared with people in other industrialized countries that had been refined and handed down through thousands of generations in ever more complex market economies. When people are constantly doing business with strangers, it helps when they have the desire to go out of their way (with a lawsuit, a call to the Better Business Bureau, or a bad Yelp review) when they feel cheated. Because Machiguengan culture had a different history, their gut feeling about what was fair was distinctly their own. In the small-scale societies with a strong culture of gift-giving, yet another conception of fairness prevailed. There, generous financial offers were turned down because people’s minds had been shaped by a cultural norm that taught them that the acceptance of generous gifts brought burdensome obligations. Our economies hadn’t been shaped by our sense of fairness; it was the other way around.
The growing body of cross-cultural research that the three researchers were compiling suggested that the mind’s capacity to mold itself to cultural and environmental settings was far greater than had been assumed. The most interesting thing about cultures may not be in the observable things they do—the rituals, eating preferences, codes of behavior, and the like—but in the way they mold our most fundamental conscious and unconscious thinking and perception.
For instance, the different ways people perceive the Müller-Lyer illusion likely reflects lifetimes spent in different physical environments. American children, for the most part, grow up in box-shaped rooms of varying dimensions. Surrounded by carpentered corners, visual perception adapts to this strange new environment (strange and new in terms of human history, that is) by learning to perceive converging lines in three dimensions.
In August 2011, several areas of London experienced episodes of large-scale disorder, comprising looting, rioting and violence. Much subsequent discourse has questioned the adequacy of the police response, in terms of the resources available and strategies used. In this article, we present a mathematical model of the spatial development of the disorder, which can be used to examine the effect of varying policing arrangements. The model is capable of simulating the general emergent patterns of the events and focusses on three fundamental aspects: the apparently-contagious nature of participation; the distances travelled to riot locations; and the deterrent effect of policing. We demonstrate that the spatial configuration of London places some areas at naturally higher risk than others, highlighting the importance of spatial considerations when planning for such events. We also investigate the consequences of varying police numbers and reaction time, which has the potential to guide policy in this area.
The FBI agents
came from Glynco
to train with us at
Marine Corps Logistics
Base, Albany, Georgia
searches and various
law enforcement training
techniques and scenarios
while offering the Marines
a tongue lashing letting
them know they would be
losing every training task,
but those kids could really
climb rope-n-rappel into
Hell faster than Satan, and
they didn’t have any
superior attitudes weighing
them down like the high
bureau officers on loan