Complex Systems

The New York Times, takes an unusually sophisticated look at the current state of world disorder. In doing so, it explains why the process of drawing down American global hegemony — while probably unavoidable — is more perilous than it might seem:

Rarely has a president been confronted with so many seemingly disparate foreign policy crises all at once — in Ukraine, Israel, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere — but making the current upheaval more complicated for Mr. Obama is the seemingly interlocking nature of them all. […] “It’s a very tangled mess,” said Gary Samore, a former national security aide to Mr. Obama and now president of United Against Nuclear Iran, an advocacy group. “You name it, the world is aflame. …

Complex systems are real individuals, not generic types, and when they get poked, they react like an ultimately incomparable cyber-meshed singularity, which is to say — excitedly. To assume general rules in such cases is to set oneself up for serial, escalating shocks. The realistic question that will eventually demand to be asked: What is the thing we are dealing with?

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