Memia on Sunday 10-Apr-2022 Geopolitical scenario development part 1: 100 axes of uncertainty🌐⁉️// values-based globalisation🌎🌍🌏// 🤑#Twitstonk // sustained resilience⛓// Kolmogorov complexity🔢🔐
So. Much. Uncertainty.
Hope you’re enjoying your Sunday morning!
Welcome to this weekend’s Memia on Sunday. Changing the order around a bit this week…a shorter curation of links to start with and then, below the paywall, sharing my recent work towards geopolitical scenario modelling for Aotearoa (and the rest of the world, tbh): 100 “axes of uncertainty”.
I wrote a long thread on Elon Musk, Twitter, free speech and decentralised social media moderation:
Links to onward reading, listening and watching…
Yet more essential reading from David Skilling of Landfall Strategy Group: Sanctions & values-based globalisation:
“There is a shift underway to a more hard-headed approach. Whereas Western governments previously tried to use economic engagement to shape political values in its economic partners, differences in political values are now shaping economic flows as Western countries increasingly engage with countries that conform to the rules-based system.
The experience of the past several weeks suggests that minimum adherence to the rules-based system (notably respecting territorial integrity) is now needed in order to fully participate in the Western-led global economic and financial system.”
Equally essential reading, Matt Boyd and Nick Wilson’s latest think piece looks at the “Sustained Resilience” advantages for Aotearoa of trying to anticipate and mitigate the impacts of a nuclear (or volcano, or asteroid) winter, should it ever come. In particular focusing on the following challenges *before the event*:
Communications and governance
Energy and transport
Conflict and Refugees
Ecology and flourishing
Speaking of existential risks… the BBC reports that scientists digging in North Dakota US think they have discovered the first fossil remains of dinosaurs actually killed by the massive asteroid strike which is theorised to have wiped out so many species 66 million years ago:
Finally, Researchers Identify ‘Master Problem’ Underlying All Cryptography: Fascinating story by Erica-Klarreich in Quanta Magazine of recent unifying theoretical work in cryptography and complexity theory, exploring how to leverage “Kolmogorov Complexity” to validate that the “one-way problems” essential to encryption are actually “one way” (top spotting @leighelse as usual!):
One of the privileges of the connected modern world is being able to interact directly with some of my favourite authors over Twitter… in particular for me, Charles Stross and Neal Asher are two prolific, crazy-intelligent scifi authors who regularly tweet out their thoughts and daily lives (in the case of Asher’s home maintenance / kayaking adventures…) and are even occasionally amenable for a bit of interaction online.
I’ve written about Stross several times before - but if you’ve never read Neal Asher, he’s one of the UK’s most imaginative and productive writers. He has written four series, five standalone novels and a book of short stories set in the Polity Universe - and also a the near-future dystopia of The Owner trilogy.
In particular The Owner series shaped my views on a roadmap for emerging brain/computer interface technology and cyborgism - check out Asher’s overview of The Owner series and the science that inspired it.
Note: the series also contains probably the darkest (fictional) genocide scenario I’ve ever read, in which an entire planet is covered in the skulls and bones of the vanquished. In some way, has perhaps helped to build resilience for the dark chapter of history we are currently living through.
If you’re interested in diving deeper, here’s an article Neal Asher wrote about where to start with his oevre:
The currently unfolding BBC podcast series Putin is essential listening right now - “the revealing story of Vladimir Putin's life with the help of guests who have watched, studied and dealt with the Russian president”.
Given Elon Musk’s insertion into Twitter, this is a timely discussion from a few weeks beforehand with Balaji Srinivasan, Stani Kulechov, and Li Jin on decentralised social media - and the conversation veers onto Balaji’s work on network states. Educational.
🌐⁉️Geopolitical scenario development part 1: 100 axes of uncertainty
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been attempting to pull up from the incessant, addictive second-by-second social media torrent of current events — in particular the shocking footage coming out of Ukraine — and instead attempt to look out to some future geopolitical scenarios, with a particular focus on Aotearoa’s unique standpoint.
Personally I like to operate with a collection of potential future scenarios already worked out, at least to a high level. (As per Matt and Nick’s article above, anticipating the future has tangible benefits for the present).
I’ve previously used Amy Webb’s rapid Axes of Uncertainty scenario-generating technique. (See my post from April 2020 Post-Covid-19 - some "axes of uncertainty" scenarios for New Zealand Inc.). Basically the technique involves collecting together as many different “Axes of uncertainty” as you can think of and then juxtaposing them to hypothesise potential scenarios. Do enough of these, you develop certain new insights into how events may develop and defining actions of how to prepare: at individual, region, national and international levels.
The problem is… right now there is So.Much.Uncertainty!!!
So this week’s homework: I’ve completed the first part of a quantitative exercise to list all the questions (=axes) on my mind right now and start putting together a scenario generating model: below are 100 axes of geopolitical uncertainty in April 2022.
(The list won’t be exhaustive… but a starter for 10 to emphasise how complex the world we live in today actually is).
The next steps will be to:
Generate a portfolio of “possible futures” scenarios, particularly with relation to Aotearoa’s position in the world.
Identifying which of these futures we should aim to avoid, and which ones to aim for… and then determining the actions that would be needed to achieve agency here.
I’ll be polling interest later this week from Memia subscribers for a collaborative workshop over Zoom to discuss some of these questions / scenarios and see if we can maybe get a collective lens across this work and push out to a broader forum. Meanwhile as always please feel free to get in touch with suggestions/ comments.
The key sense I’m getting already is that an “independent foreign policy” for Aotearoa and “rules-based international trade” may well become historical artefacts very rapidly.
(Paid subscribers read on…)
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Memia to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.