Local, global, catastrophe

The world is complex. In my mind, that means that there are non-linear higher order effects to every action. For example, the collapse of an institution sometimes has the effects we anticipate, but more often it has unforeseen downstream consequences that we never could’ve comprehended, yet alone predicted.

It is for this reason that I am suspicious of those with grand ambitions. By “grand ambitions”, I mean desires that fall under the umbrella of “Global Change”—remaking the social order, dramatically altering the current cultural climate, disrupting governance, that sort of thing. Sure, these ambitions seem noble. Who doesn’t want to make the world a better place? Who doesn’t want to banish poverty, eliminate poor quality of life and see human rights implemented universally? But we go about the attainment of such ideals in the wrong manner. We try to implement sweeping, top-down changes and these result in more harm than help.

Here’s how I see it:

Local ambitions yield global progress; global ambitions create local catastrophes.

The human intellect has a notorious reputation for its inability to comprehend scale and higher order effects. As such, the intellect required to make global changes and mitigate the inevitable negative consequences of sweeping change in a complex system is one that comes along maybe once in a generation. Perhaps once every few hundred years. And even then, what are the chances that said person even gets into a position where they can make the changes they are uniquely equipped to make? Tiny. So I think it better that we acknowledge the limitations of our minds, recognise the complexity of the world we inhabit, and opt for the pursuit of local ambitions as the most effective deliverer of global progress.