When I think about Chapter 1 and particularly Chapter 2 -- especially when I have spent a day being inundated by our modern news cycle (which I attempt to avoid) or the horse race of national politics in the digital age (which I also try and avoid) -- I find my own writing to be an indictment of a mindset. Nassim Taleb would call it the "fragilista" mindset, the unjustified confidence an expert has in their ability to grasp complexity. It drives him crazy, as it does me.
I love this interview with Taleb, especially the blurb: "You should study risk taking, not risk management." The former is essentially an exercise in humility (what are the limits of my understanding) and the latter an exercise in hubris (I am capable of understanding and mitigating all risks.)
When I have the two charts showing private investment leading public investment (page 31) and then public investment leading private (page 33), I'm trying to help the fragilistas -- and those that empower them -- understand the risks they expose themselves to.
Yet, I also understand (and we'll get into this in Chapter 3) that we are all flawed humans, that the propensity to be a fragilista is somewhat natural, especially in an age of seemingly endless energy and resources. I suffer this bout of depression pretty much every four years when we're sold simple solutions to complex problems as we go through this exercise of electing a new president. I started the original Strong Towns blog in November 2008, at the end of one of these bouts.
My question for this discussion is simply stated, but difficult to answer: Can we overcome our natural fragilista disposition -- the propensity to empower those who would offer simple solutions to complex problems -- or are we doomed to further centralize, further consolidate, further improve efficiency, until every last bit of slack is wrung from the system and all we have left is collapse?
My answer is: I don't know, but I feel like it's worth the struggle, and there are enough people ready to participate in it, that we try to avoid the worst. I'm interested in what everyone else thinks. Can we voluntarily become the humans of Pompeii or frontier Brainerd again, or must we experience a great humbling episode if we are to regain our collective humility?