Been on the road – well, precisely, more in the air than on the ground in the last several days flying to the world´s end, as the Chileans call their country. I flew from Singapore to Chile for a conference and after that, I am taking a break. Hence, posts have been light lately and would be light for some more time.
In the flight to Sao Paulo from Santiago, I caught up with David Brooks´s column in NYT on `Emergent thinking´. The symposium organised by Edge.Org sounds like a worthwhile initiative. I think what he means by emergent thinking is the ability to connect dots, to think holistically and to think of problems in their multiple dimensions and not just rely on the past as the basis to analyse the present or predict the future. I agree with him on that.
The latest example of the folly of relying on the past to guide our analysis was on display when many analysts immediately leapt to conclude that the 1995 earthquake of Kobe was the best basis to analyse the consequences of the quake-tsunami of March 2011. I wrote about it in my MINT column on March 15th. I was naturally pleased to see my arguments validated in this FT piece on March 24th. Past is, at best, a point of departure for analysis and seldom, it is the point of arrival too.
Going back to David Brooks´s column, he quotes Daniel Kahneman:
Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University writes about the Focusing Illusion, which holds that “nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it.”
An illustration – not necessarily fully related to this quote of Mr. Kahneman – is the book review I read in ´Economist´dated March 26th. The book analyses the role of trade protectionism in the Great Depression of the 1930s. No doubt, it played a role in triggering ´beggar thy neighbour´retaliatory trade protection measures by other nations. But, read the last paragraph:
In the longer run, however, the fiasco of Smoot-Hawley may have helped remove American trade policy from Congress’s control. The act’s bad reputation may also have spurred the United States to try and negotiate bilateral reductions in trade barriers after the second world war.
That does not mean that you do the opposite of what you intend to achieve. That is harder than it seems, precisely because it is counterintuitive. But, the message is that one does not have to despair over developments that, at first glance, seem wholly destructive. They may be so at that point in time but that might prove to be the very basis of lasting and welcome change in future.
Think of the Republican party´s antics in several states in the US on labour unions, on budget policies, on minority-bashing, etc or bankers´bonuses.