The coming dislocations: Huge, fast, and complex

Little Shop of Horrors fractal. While fractals do have an underlying pattern, it can be difficult to discern what it is.

Global Guerrillas on the differences between the current financial crisis and the Great Depression

– Global and not national. Unlike the previous, this potential Depression will be global — aka HUGE, FAST, and COMPLEX — and not national. This means that the solutions needed to mitigate its impact will only occur on the global stage.

Nation states can only work within their borders. But the instantaneous flow of information and money across borders now means things can happen at warp speed and with little warning. This genie can’t be put back in the bottle, either. Plus, the financial models used by supposed experts were both wrong and so complicated that humans barely understood them anyway.

– Systemic disruptions. The second difference is that we will continue see numerous systemic shocks on a global scale. These shocks will increase in frequency as the dynamic instability of the global system becomes acute. Organizational structures that aren’t resilient will be washed away.

We’re already seeing this in financial markets. No one knows where the risk is or – to make up a outlandishly exaggerated example – if the collapse of an investment bank could end up bankrupting a country. Oh, wait. That already happened, didn’t it? (Lehman and Iceland.)

– Post-ideological. Mass movements and ideologies are dead. Global markets and social fragmentation now rule. This means that we can’t expect a repeat of the 20th Century solution set.

Mass movements and ideologies, I think, require fixed, strong governments and institutions to be in opposition to (or in support of, for that matter.) But as governments and institutions hollow out or morph into new forms, the focus for any mass movement would have to keep changing too. Decentralization and being highly mobile and loosely linked is the new paradigm.

The nimble, flexible, and prepared will best survive the coming economic hard times, not the rigid and unbending.