(2012-03-23) Rao Hydra Vs Unknown Unknowns
Venkatesh Rao ponders whether Nassim Taleb's Hydras will get us through Donald Rumsfeld's Unknown Unknown-s. He considers (Spore-like) Resilience, Survivalism, Transition Town, PermaCulture, Sustainability, and Preparedness to be Pessimistic, and (Hydra-like) Thrivability, Anti-Fragility (see 2010-11-10-TalebAntifragility), Abundance, and Generativity (Generative) to be Optimistic. What is new is the idea that we might be on the brink of a successful theory of Social Engineering. The great hope is that we might somehow be able to put together ideas about anti-fragility, immortal cities and resilience to solve the problems that defeated the similarly-inspired authoritarian high-modernist (a term due to Scott) social engineers of a century ago. The old failure, in the Hydra narratives, is framed as both a moral failure (a case of hubris and hamartia), and a technical failure: (they didn’t understand “bottom-up, organic, open-systems, network thinking.”) It is important to note that no believer in the resurrected social engineering narrative has any clue what ”bottom-up, organic, open-systems network thinking” actually means... It is merely secularized religiosity and a yearning for a moral calculus to confirm an analysis-by-faith.
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