#Antifragile #BlackSwan #Stressors #Systems #Taleb
We humans are a significant and strange lot! We coexist, but have our own quirks, and when we are so many, we need to be guided. Guidance brings systems, which we have to follow to co-exist, but which we resist to mono-exist. We dislike addressing our quirks, and end up creating systems, to manage us herds, along with the mixed motive of co-existing & mono-existing, thus introducing loopholes to manipulate systems and get our own way.
We humans also seem a desperate lot, and currently in plenty, on this planet.
It is a known fact that when something burgeons, be it our population, profit, pessimism, or bellies, beliefs, buttocks, any system created around it, is eventually bound to produce an extreme consequence on the darker side, creating a Black Swan (idea credit: Nassim Taleb).
It is difficult to attribute prospective extreme consequences (Black Swans), while designing present systems, to be stemming from our quirks, unwillingness to address it and an element of design flaw which gets overlooked, called “stressors”.
A solution to any problem, falls under the premise, that the underlying problem is real, can be solved, and has to hold good for the majority, over a long range, else it defies the logic of efficacy, and is considered not much of use, as it ends up using resources, not worth investing in. Most solutions need a stimulus for it to be activated. We humans create systems as a solution to our problems, with hope of maintaining sanity amongst us to coexist, especially since we’re a rampantly burgeoning species. We have so many familiar systems, which abound either organically or designed with well-intended motives, although with asymmetric benefits to specific groups. Some popular systems around us are: medical, political, educational, legal, family, monetary etc., which have evolved from the hunter gatherer days, until now, in varied manners, some unscrupulously, many gracefully.
The human quirks mentioned earlier are not too many, but the few that exist, are enough to render any system and its intended solution, to malfunction over time, and eventually become ineffective, to the point of collapse, causing extensive mayhem, a directly opposite outcome from its original intention. Its worth mentioning that we humans have also self proclaimed our dominance over other species, under the assumption that, we’re the most evolved species and hence we naturally understand the functions and complexities of the ecosystem, without need for any extra training, awareness or quality checks. Its worth pointing out some obvious issues in the current systems, which were all well-intended and their current challenges, with specific examples:
escalating and unaffordable costs, heavy reliance on insurance driven programs, symptomatic addressing of health etc.
gridlock in policy making, unbridled fiscal deficits, systematic rise in taxes upon the middle class etc.
inability of instilling curiosity in students, inability to attract talented teachers, interference of state to drive the programs etc.
extensive delays in verdicts, escalating costs, ambiguous outcomes based on varied factors etc.
subtle dominance and violence, uncharacteristic instilling of feudalistic qualities, lack of long term commitments etc.
unreasonable favoring of debt instruments for growth, unbridled infusion of consumerism, hefty hidden charges on credits etc.
There are other well-intended systems which probably are not listed here, but the message is clearly indicative.
In spite of creating extensive systems based on plethora of choices and hired minds, we humans repeatedly seem to fail in creating solutions, which holds value over a long range.
And what’s even more daunting is the fact, we don’t want to stop and wonder, whether we are missing some basic understanding, because of which we are unable to provide sustainable solutions to the problems of coexisting amongst the billions.
A basic human trait which gets instilled in us right from infancy, is the strong idea of individuality, based on the systematic rub off from our family and society, along with the strong idea of constantly enhancing and prolonging our survival needs, no matter what the cost.
We are brainwashed, to think that we exist as an individual, bounded to a family, loosely connected with few others and everyone else remains separate from us, and our coexisting in the world is independent of anyone else’s wellbeing.
This training seems like a colossal mistake, as that is not how other species or activities in nature seem to be functioning. We are ill trained from the beginning, and our ill habits are formed very early on. This amounts to us living unconsciously about our nature, and the significant journey of exploring our original nature remains a side to nil affair. This leaves us lacking inclusiveness, where only “I” matters to “me”, and everyone else’s wellbeing is arguably their problem. This divides us from one another, and what should have been a natural coexistence, remains a sad journey of violence, intolerance and morbid attempts at living one up in relation to someone else. This is the foundational quirk in us, which never allows any system to create solution for our wellbeing, in the long term, because the same human who is using the system is constantly eyeing to fail it, based on his conditioning.
A system designed with built-in stressors, has a higher chance of becoming anti-fragile (idea credit: Nassim Taleb), neither misused by humans, nor allowing us to depend on it.
It functions like a push-pull technology, where the system offers value, but by design, prevents its misuse or total dependability for solutions, thus enhancing the human and strengthening itself, in net. In a way, these stressors, are catalytic, and prevent the system from being either fragile or robust, instead catapults it towards an anti-fragile quality, asymmetrically gaining from any disorder (idea credit: Nassim Taleb). It requires a balanced and conscious mind to create such systems, which are in sync with the natural ecosystem and with inclusive qualities, which considers wellbeing over profits and sustainability over skewed immediate outcomes.
Some indicative ideas of stressors in a system are (this is a concocted list, not a one size, fits all solution):
onus on individual in staying healthy, basic doctor visits discouraged, insurance and industry responsibility shifting towards holistic and preventive research versus symptomatic remedies only etc.
discouraging or completely avoiding debts as an active instrument of growth, adjusting programs to fit within budgets rather than vice versa, identifying voters to participate actively versus passively with policy makers in demanding outcomes at various governance levels etc.
emphasizing play time and creatively instilling curiosity in students, parents & teachers expectations to shift from grades to child, teacher & parents’ combined joyfulness as a criteria for bringing out student’s potential and success, awakening to the limitations of education and it being a stepping stone towards fulfilling survival needs etc.
emphasizing weekday outings in nature, one parent fulfilling the role of provider while other a nurturer for the entire family, introducing meditation, yoga & physical games in daily routines, discouraging unbridled demands by a member over common resources, encouraging creating a vegetable garden and cooking with home grown food etc.
While systems and solutions are necessary, as the world burgeons with human species, creating imbalance, the inverted effect of size on systems becomes a genuine concern for its imminent failure, and eventual collapse, partly due to our unwillingness to expand in consciousness using inner technologies and partly due to lack of stressors in the design of systems. It hence seems impossible to create an anti-fragile solution, to make us responsible and forward looking versus becoming complacent and dependent upon systems. It is a matter which affects everything we do, right from our personal growth, individual relations, to family affairs, living in community, being part of nation and the various stimuli living in the world offers. Yet, these attempts at systems and solutions, have been tried over generations, and they always fall short, and the need to look at it from the perspective of stressors and expanding human consciousness, is ever more grave and urgent today, as we’ve copulated and populated beyond the limits of available natural resources, and have significantly empowered humans with an arsenal of technological benefits, which can turn out to be a benediction or bane, depending upon what kind of stressors we create, for the human race to either flourish or perish!
The central theme of this post stems from Nassim Taleb’s excellent work on Randomness, Black Swans and Antifragile, on which he has written three remarkable books, which I would highly recommend.
Here are the links: