What the Mayans can teach us about wind turbines

Ms Costa is promoting her new book in this article and, perhaps understandably, is using GW Bush & Tony Blair to illustrate how belief can replace fact in complex situations. Please don’t get too hung up on that but, rather the “pattern” evident in the demise of once great civilizations. She does have the good grace to acknowledge Joseph Tainter (of whom I have written plenty)  but this is also a subject covered, most notably, by Jared Diamond amongst others.

I hope here book isn’t a tired “jump on the bandwagon” rehash of previous work on the subject!? If so, she may be better advised to consider the future “post critical” landscape because that will be interesting…and challenging!

Among physicists it is common knowledge that increased complexity leads to higher rates of failure. So as our problems become more complex, the number of wrong solutions begins to outnumber the right ones. As complexity escalates, the chances that we will make the right call diminish.

via What the Mayans can teach us about wind turbines | Mail Online.

Complex systems: The FLAW of large numbers

FAIL stamp

Image by hans.gerwitz via Flickr


Financial and Political elites appear intent to ignore lessons from nature and history…even though such short-sightedness may be amongst their final acts before the rigidity and complexity of the ecosystem they have created  proves to be their undoing.

Their unstinting commitment to such, patently, flawed belief systems – when the evidence is laid bare for others to see – WILL be their undoing. i has written so many blogs covering this that I feel I am repeating myself time and again but I am sure the links (below) will prove interesting for anyone kind enough to take an interest in my thoughts…or my interpretation of the thoughts of others.

Complexity: it’s complex, real, multi-layered and VERY dangerous


Regulators want big, complex banks to hold larger buffers of capital to protect the financial system. Big banks argue this is unnecessary because risk is diversified across their larger balance sheets. Who is right? Natural sciences – especially epidemiology, ecology and genetics – provide clues.

Are big banks less prone to failure? The traditional economics of diversification suggest so. By scaling up balance sheets across different classes of asset, risks to portfolios will tend, on average, to cancel each other out. Aggregate balance sheet risk is dampened the bigger the balance sheet. Big banks thus benefit from a law of large numbers.

Complex systems – those found in nature, but also in finance – tell a different tale. Here, scaling up risks may cause them to cascade rather than cancel out. The bigger and more complex the structure, the greater this risk.

Why? Because size and complexity increase the chances of cross-contamination of the whole barrel, even if there is only one bad apple. Errors do not cancel; they cascade. There is a flaw of large numbers.

via FT.com / Comment / Opinion – The birds and the bees, and the big banks.