A Pandemic of Authoritarianism, as the Red Grains Cascade, by Alasdair Crooke

There is a huge difference between declaring yourself a ruler and actually being able to control those you rule. From Alasdair Crooke at strategic-culture.org:

What we see is an attempt to impose an idealised technical managerialism onto a complex, rather than pursue real solutions to problems.

Change happens quickly and often unpredictably. Yet the unpredictable part seemingly is all about physics. Imagine, dropping one grain of sand after another onto a table. A pile soon develops. Eventually, just one grain starts an avalanche. Most of the time, it’s a small one. But sometimes the pile just slides and disintegrates entirely.

Well, in 1987, three physicists began to play the sand pile game in their lab, seeking an answer to what it is that triggers the typical avalanche? After a huge number of tests, they found there is no typical number of grains that does it.

To find out why such unpredictability should show up in their sand pile game, the physicists next coloured it according to its steepness. Where it was relatively flat and stable, they coloured it green; where steep and, in avalanche terms, ‘ready to go’, they coloured it red.

They found that at the outset, the pile looked mostly green, but that, as the pile grew, the green became infiltrated with ever more red. With more grains, the scattering of red danger fingers grew until a dense skeleton of red instability ran through the pile. Here then was a clue to its peculiar behaviour: a grain falling on a red spot can, by domino-like action, cause sliding at other nearby red spots.

Afghanistan was intended to be a showcase for western technical managerialism – an empirical petri-dish in which to prove the historical inevitability of technocracy. Its doctrine held that free markets somehow obviated the need for politics; that big data and ‘expert’ managerialism in markets (in markets extended to ‘everything’, that is), were the crux to re-setting the world in a better way (i.e. the Build Back Better meme). It was, in a word, postulated on data predictability.

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