Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Should I listen to Lee Kuan Yew on how to vote?

An intellectual foil against Lee Kuan Yew's advice on who to vote for. Thanks for the reminder Nassim Taleb.

Those who seek to prevent volatility on the grounds that any and all bumps in the road must be avoided paradoxically increase the probability that a tail risk will cause a major explosion. Consider as a thought experiment a man placed in an artificially sterilized environment for a decade and then invited to take a ride on a crowded subway; he would be expected to die quickly. Likewise, preventing small forest fires can cause larger forest fires to become devastating. This property is shared by all complex systems.

It is the system and its fragility, not events, that must be studied -- what physicists call "percolation theory," in which the properties of the terrain are studied rather than those of a single element of the terrain.

As Jean-Jacques Rousseau put it, "A little bit of agitation gives motivation to the soul, and what really makes the species prosper is not peace so much as freedom." With freedom comes some unpredictable fluctuation. This is one of life's packages: there is no freedom without noise -- and no stability without volatility.

Lee Kuan Yew probably got it wrong. As he cannot engage the world like he used to in more vigorous and rigorous fashion, he has basically been atrophying. Do not mistake sustained or new fire for a very bright after glow. The world is moving on. We must not be held back by him.

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