Saturday, October 24, 2009

Geopolitical intensity

I saw this cat on the Daily Show the other day who made all kinds of claims about his ability to use some kind of computer model to predict outcomes of political, business, legal, whatever situations. The idea turns out to be taking certain qualitative ideas about the power and salience of the major players, quantifying them, and running them through some type of game theory computer simulation.

But, course he doesn't explain his models at all in his book which I sent off to for, because it just sounded too tempting that he might (not that I would understand the mathematics). He also turns out to be just completely full of himself and spends more time jerking himself off intellectually than saying much. The brief biblio and end notes point to some hints about this whole predictioneering nonsense or attempts at 'engineering the future', which in concept is not always or necessarily often a 'bad idea'. It's just when you get the 'engineering' wrong. Which, with the current state of our understanding of human consciousness, is going to be a bit murky. But by thinking through the rational and then the deeper spiritual and maybe also the philosophical (which is substantially different than the rational I would say) among all things maybe we can work it all out.

And Bueno De Mesquita is clearly a smart man who has made some serious predictions throughout the years, which have predicted outcomes in geopolitical situations such as the Oslo accords or the Clinton health care flame out or other classified stuff apparently. It is fairly interesting, if also slow and a little patronizingly put, and he still has a few chapters in which to make good on the overall work.

But, course Amazon has that free (supersaver) shipping for orders of just 25 hot dollas or more, so I always try to at least find a cheap second book. Often the book that Amazon pairs it up with. They usually hit the target with their pairings, if you want one, you want the other, if it's just one book that I had in mind to spend a little disposable cash on (on-line and brick and mortar book shopping is one consumer behavior that I fully admit I have a bit of a problem with [I can quit any time, I swear. I just need those two books on behavior economics. Oh, and that other Jared Diamond book, The Third Chimpanzee. And that book I saw in Border's the other day about the thing. I need that book for sure. And also Rawl's work on political liberalism [edited to say: got it]. And surely everything on my wish list is also crucial, but after that. That's it. No more. I'm done.}])

So I got the second book, which was The Second World by Parag Kkanna, and, yo, this guy is no joke. A serious geopolitical antroponaciomorphistological (that word is made up [but still descriptive]) look at the inter-relations between politics, culture at multiple levels, and the old school kind of global history crowd's stuff (Toynbee being the largest example of, but also Oswald Spengler) with that early somewhat immature work in the field of international relations.

Well, Khanna updates that work for like the twenty-third century and shit (I swear this guy is way ahead of his time [and only a year older than me! What the?]) taking geopolitics and the understanding of the globalization process to this whole other level. He uses this process of apparently going to all these places and talking to the people there, and then connecting those on the ground probably informal field interviews with businessmen, gov't officials, taxi drivers, and on with this historico-international perspective of culture. Intensity does not even begin. I haven't been this excited about a book since I discovered Niall Ferguson's The World at War a couple of years ago.

Khanna is especially in favor of the European version of empire over the American or the Chinese (he identifies these as your three poles of power, with second world 'emerging market' nations as the focus of the lens through which to see the tripartite world empire [well, it just sounds conspirial when I write it like that {and it's not (more considered)}]). He does seem to admire the Chinese even over ourselves, the Americans (which points to some concern [edited to say: as I'm now finishing the book, it turns out China is the one of his poles that he goes into with any depth, and it's a nuanced look to be sure). It's really helping me already to see more globally in terms of geosociopolitical stuff. Kind of seeing the world historical dialectic or something. Heavy, man.

Man oh man. It is indeed a heavy problem of international coordination, which has to be the way, whatever you think about all the stuff in the book of revelations and some of the other old testament stuff (without the Jewish, apochrypal, or mystic commentaries [more perspectives are better]). We have to work towards togetherness, and international bodies need to be made fair and decent with proper incentivization of behavior. (Let us not continue to use a structure that incentivizes greed, sloth, avarice, resource hoarding, apathy, over-consumption, hyper-consumption, etc. just because we don't think we can do better. Let us walk out into the light of the Spirit and go beyond such poor organization. Technology is the result of culture, and culture is the sense of the people and who we are and what we can be together as a society.)

On occasion, not any time recently I'll admit because of more basic level learning in new fields, I've tried to work out a language of superstructure theory, which would be a more integrated version of the current social sciences, wherein all where considered in the theoretic position. It has something to do with visualizing the coordinations somehow, but nonetheless...

I did have a moment there just a minute ago where I was visualizing the globe in my head and trying to work out some kind of international cultural intermix in terms of interlocking layers of cities, countries, regions, inter-regions, national tensions. It's a very powerful way of thinking and really requires an elaborative process when you, probably like me and not Khanna (who appears to have been on a trip around the world a la Toynbee's East to West), have never been to the places he's talking about. You've got to use imaginative, creative tools to imagine this world that Khanna describes. No less than some sixty or seventy countries spanning northern Africa (the broader middle East as it were), South America, South Central Asia (the Stans [Khazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc.]), South East Asia, and then he does finally get into a look directly at China, which it turns out he's not so blind to the dangers of.

And but a yet necessary further step for the US to really rejoin the community of nations as a genuine leader is to engage in this type of thinking both within the educational system and in the private sector and in the intersection of these two. Really the public and the private need to get into greater syncopation. The public-private partnership has to be a more healthy, less nutzo freak out version of the current version. Learning real cooperation, not simply self interested cooperation.

Anyway, my interest has been piqued to be sure.

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