The twentieth century was the bankruptcy of the social utopia; the twenty-first will be that of the technological one.” - Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Today’s must read article has a peculiar ring for us. Having read Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s books, we have always been attentive to the asymmetry created by the illusion of knowledge as well as the false sense of security provided by technologies. The most obvious example for people coming from the pre-mobile phone world is our markedly decreased capacity to memorize telephone numbers. Of course this may be freeing ‘brain space’ for other activities or capacities. But we believe that the upside do not necessarily make up for the downside, especially for people who doesn’t overcompensate elsewhere.

Another anecdotal example is our access to the world’s first accessible, plentiful and constantly updated library, also known as the Internet. What we don’t see that targeted ads, video suggestions and our own desire only show us what we want to see, isolating ourselves into our understanding of the world, destroying a common narrative, and isolating ourselves into our own crafted reality.

As a result, the multiplication of minority claims is mirrored by the inability of these minorities to coordinate and act together. Everyone fights for his own battle. Fragmentation creates inefficiency, and most battles are lost. On the other hand, the sheer complexity of the modern world makes it difficult to piece together a common thread for everyone to support.

Combined with the mental numbness brought about by comfortable technologies, we are blindly letting potentially destructive technologies into our everyday life: from ‘uberization’ of jobs, which really means precarization, to self driving cars and automatic pilot on airliners, which decrease overall skill levels of drivers/pilots.

Given the inter-connectivity of our world, the risk of a breakdown is low but its impact would be devastating: a true ‘out of boundary’ event, which impact can neither be quantified or predicted. By relying on new technologies to make our lives easier, we remove precious skills and increase our exposures to critical events. The solution is to keep redundant systems and train seemingly useless skills (which really are useless until they’re needed). Slowing the integration of new technologies is also recommended, since it is frustrating but increases the chances of reliability.

Science, General Knowledge & Environment

Crash: how computers are setting us up for disasterMust read Digital devices tune out small errors while creating opportunities for large errors. […] We fail to see that a computer that is a hundred times more accurate than a human, and a million times faster, will make 10,000 times as many mistakes.

Want to Know Julian Assange’s Endgame? He Told You a Decade Ago – “But the other point Assange makes—the “secrecy tax” that organizations pay when they try to avoid leaks—rings true. Any organization that has tried to encrypt all its communications, delete them, or throttle, quarantine, and compartmentalize them in the name of secrecy knows the toll that paranoia takes.

Russia Shifts Focus From Oil To Agriculture – “Unfortunately, oil is beginning its decline in Russia. The nation is being faced with the issue of how to maintain the current level of crude production, something impossible without upgrading equipment. The soviet-age oil fields have peaked and will soon be unable to produce effectively.

The Cheap Airfare Party Is About to End – “Rising fuel and labor costs, plus fewer seats, equals ticket prices headed skyward.

History & Geopolitics

Shakespeare Explains the 2016 Election – (Hat tip Lao Ho) – “But the others assembled in the crowd, whether from indifference or from fear or from the catastrophically mistaken belief that there is no real difference between Richard and the alternatives, are silent, “like dumb statues or breathing stones.” Not speaking out — simply not voting — is enough to bring the monster to power.

It’s not just Trump. Authoritarian populism is rising across the West. Here’s why. – (Hat tip Sam) – “By giving voice to and amplifying fears of cultural change, the Republicans have opened the way for a populist leader. Trump’s support appears to be fueled by a backlash among traditionalists (often men and the less educated) faced with rising American support for issues such as gay marriage, sexual equality, and tolerance of social diversity.

China anti-corruption campaign backfires – “If local government is overflowing with corruption, people will gradually shift responsibility for that to the centre as they perceive the centre’s failure of management to have led to such a state of affairs.

Russian Military Uses Syria as Proving Ground, and West Takes Notice – (Hat tip Lao Ho) – “In a report this month for the European Council on Foreign Relations, Gustav Gressel argued that Mr. Putin had overseen the most rapid transformation of the country’s armed forces since the 1930s. “Russia is now a military power that could overwhelm any of its neighbors, if they were isolated from Western support.”

Olivier Roy : « La mort fait partie du projet djihadiste » – (Hat tip Lao Ho) – Must read Bref, il suffirait de leur enseigner un « bon » islam pour les déradicaliser. Mais ils sont justement fascinés par la radicalité, pas par l’islam en tant que tel. Ils suivent le djihadisme parce qu’ils y trouvent ce qu’ils cherchent – la radicalité et la violence –, pas parce qu’ils se seraient malencontreusement trompés d’école. On ne guérit pas un joueur de poker en lui apprenant la belote.

The Future of a FARC Peace Deal – [Video] – “Stratfor Latin America Analyst Reggie Thompson discusses Colombia’s options for peace after voters rejected a proposal to demobilize the country’s longest-running insurgency.

Finance & Economics

The Great Normalisation of Global Trade – “An assessment of the factors driving the trade slowdown thus suggests that the weakness is likely to persist, as both the shift in activity from advanced to emerging economies and the structural factors are unlikely to reverse over the medium term.

Investors are ill equipped for our unfathomable future – “To put it another way, the real danger in finance is the not one that tends to be discussed: that banks will topple over (as they did in 2008). It is, rather, the threat that investors and investment groups will be wiped out by wild price swings from an unexpected political shock, be that central bank policy swings, trade bans, election results or Brexit.

Euro ‘house of cards’ to collapse, warns ECB prophet – “The comments are a reminder that the eurozone has not overcome its structural incoherence. A beguiling combination of cheap oil, a cheap euro, quantitative easing and less fiscal austerity have disguised this, but the short-term effects are already fading.

China must wean itself off debt addiction if it is to avoid financial calamity, warns IMF chief – “The level of financial and corporate debt and the complexity of the financial system and rapid growth in shadow banking is on an unsustainable path.

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About Carlito Riego

"Great perfection may appear imperfect, but its usefulness is inexhaustible. Great abundance may appear empty, but its usefulness cannot be exhausted. Great correctness may appear twisted, great skills appear crude, great eloquence appear awkward. Activity conquers cold; inactivity conquers heat. Clear serenity governs the world." - Lao Zi