Friday, April 19, 2013

Read, think, do

I recently selected Five Books on the theme Growing up in the Anthropocene. I was wondering what to read next and a few days later came across this interview with Jeremy Grantham. Prompted by Grantham, I read Immoderate Greatness by William Ophuls. It's a short, polemical read which, for all its conservative sensibility, is worth a look. Ophuls quotes Why Most Things Fail by Paul Ormerod:
Species, people, firms, governments are all complex entities that must survive in dynamic environments that evolve over time. Their ability to understand such environments is inherently limited...These limits are a fundamental feature of [all complex] systems [and] can no more be overcome by smarter analysis that we are able to break binding physical constrains, such as our inability to travel faster than the speed of light. That is why things fail. 
Ophuls's concludes"
the proper (or only) way to 'manage' civilization is by not allowing it to become to complex – in fact, deliberately designing in restraints, redundancy, and resiliency, even if the price is less power, freedom, efficiency or profit than we might otherwise gain through greater complexity...Wisdom consists in renouncing 'immoderate greatness.'

Some hope. Next up, when time allows, I'll read Dirt by David Montgomery. I may also look at The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway (presumably summarised as follows: “a second Dark Age [fell] on Western civilization, in which denial and self-deception, rooted in an ideological fixation on 'free' markets, disabled the world’s powerful nations in the face of tragedy.”)

But beyond that, what? If you are reading this and have any suggestions please let me know.

(Also, what shall I do with myself?!)

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