EconTalk — Martin Gurri

On: Revolt of the Public

Episode: N/A

Date: May 25, 2020

Background: Author and former CIA analyst.

Key Takeaways:

  • More information = more uncertainty.
    • Previous sources of false sense of certainty lose credibility (institutions, people).
  • More complexity = easier to break than to fix.
    • Easier to figure out what you are against, than what you are for.
    • Easier to break the system down, than to figure out how to fix it.
  • De-scale = shorter time scale = experimentation = clearer feedback.
    • Pursue certainty through trial and error.
    • Replicate success, avoid spread of failure.

Key Subjects:

  • Industrial age: stable institutions and authority.
    • Hierarchies formed that were in line with social and political environment.
    • Power structure relied on a monopoly of information.
    • Credibility of experts was high.
      • Predictions went largely unchallenged.
      • Nobody had the ability to talk back credibly.
    • [More cohesive population, controlled mass communication channels].
  • Current age: stability of institutions and authority under attack.
    • Loss of information monopoly.
      • Information revolution started around 2001, 2002 (Internet).
        • Provided people with alternative information source.
      • Credibility of experts started to suffer.
        • (Bad) predictions more easily and credibly challenged.
        • May tilt balance towards distrust of experts.
    • Increased awareness of elite behavior (transparency).
      • Before: elite behaves/are thought to behave according to a higher moral code.
      • Now: elite behaves like everyone else (or worse).
  • Nihilism: less interest in ideologies.
    • Fractured society: loss of general societal cohesion.
      • Small world: people have lost many of their communities (church, family, locality, etc.)
      • Big world: people are more incentivized (at least on social media) to polarize (shout to get attention).
    • No vision, no solutions.
      • It’s easier to focus on what you are against than what you are for.
      • Tactical freeze: there is nothing to negotiate about (you can’t offer any alternatives).
      • [Coming up with a solution is too difficult.]
      • [Figuring out how to intervene in complex systems is too difficult.]
      • [See also “Complexity — David Krakauer, Part 6“].
    • No solutions -> destruction becomes the only viable option.
      • It’s not: and therefore give me this.
      • It’s: and therefor you have to go (try something, anything, different).
    • Desire to purify, cleanse.
  • Need to de-scale.
    • Distance.
      • Frustration with lack of impact.
      • Too many layers of bureaucracy.
    • Return to the personal sphere.
      • Information and decisions are more closely linked.
      • Acknowledge that route to certainty is through trial and error.
      • Success can be perceived and replicated.
      • Failure does not implicate the entire system.

Leave a Reply