Dust flux, Vostok ice core

Dust flux, Vostok ice core
Two dimensional phase space reconstruction of dust flux from the Vostok core over the period 186-4 ka using the time derivative method. Dust flux on the x-axis, rate of change is on the y-axis. From Gipp (2001).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Multistability in the political world

In this blog I have tried to show that economic systems behave very like complex natural systems, which are often characterized by multistability. These demonstrations have been easy because of the data available from economic systems.

Political systems may similarly exhibit multistability. But this is not so easy to demonstrate in phase space.

Rosie Dimanno has a recent opinion in the Toronto Star about the ongoing horror in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, she draws the wrong conclusions, stating that the internecine warfare amongst groups of Muslims is occurring because "we" are withdrawing our troops. According to Rosie, all would be well if only the West would continue its benevolent humanitarian interventions in Afghanistan and other places around the world.

She doesn't pause to consider--why all this violence? Were all these countries this violent before the foreign interventions? How was Afghanistan before all the western intervention--which goes all the way back to the Russian invasion (if not earlier)? The pictures in the above links suggest it was a pretty nice place.

The current state of Afghanistan is completely different from the above earlier version of the country. What changes a peaceful place into one wracked by war, kidnappings, and all forms of extremism?

I believe we are looking at a state change much like we observe in complex natural and economic systems. Most systems find themselves in some stable state (which one is a function of the entire past history of the system). External forcing mechanisms (often in conjunction with internal mechanisms) may drive the system from its zone of stability.

Once the system leaves an area of stability, it tends to behave chaotically until it settles in another region of stability (or perhaps the same one).

What may have happened in Afghanistan is that western intervention drove the social system from its former stability and into a chaotic regime. Ordinarily, we would expect the system to evolve to some other stable state, but perhaps the ongoing interventions have kept this from happening.

It isn't clear if the social state in Afghanistan has switched to a new and very undesirable stable state, or whether it is winging through the realm of chaos. Trying to drive the system to a particular realm of stability is difficult--we have no theoretical framework for success. For this reason, it is typically better not to intervene in the first place.

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