Friday, August 28, 2009

Clarification ...

... Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Climate experts and bank risk managers have both failed us. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

My position on the climate is to avoid releasing pollutants into the atmosphere, regardless of current expert opinion. Climate experts, like banking risk managers, have failed us in the past in foreseeing long-term damage. This is an extension of my general belief: "Do not disturb a complex system." We do not know the consequences of our actions (this idea also makes me anti-war), and I have explicitly stated the need to leave the planet the way we got it.

As I have said here a number of times, I don't need doomsday prophecies to encourage me not to behave in a slovenly manner toward the natural world - or toward anything or anyone. It takes only good manners and common sense. It is good to see Taleb drawing the connection between the climate models and the financial models. They both purport to do much the same thing in much the same way.
Is anyone pro-war? I hope not. But if you break into my house, I'm likely to blow you away. Saying one is anti-war is a lot like saying one is anti-typhoon. Wars tend to be more on the order of natural disasters. Only a lunatic would say that one must never fight one. (Bear in mind, for an individual to adopt non-violence as a counsel of perfection is not the same thing as being "anti-war".) Does Taleb think WWII should not have been fought? One could argue that different policies might have prevented it, but to do so would be pure counterfactual-conditional speculation. War does disturb a complex system, though, no doubt about that. So do hurricanes and floods and earthquakes.
As for leaving "the planet the way we got it," the planet is already not the way we "got it" and will continue to not be. That is because the planet, like reality, is continuously undergoing change. We are constituents in a complex system and ought to behave in a responsible manner within that system. But we are not in control of that system. Given humanity's historical track record, let is pray we never are.
See also: Sunspots Do Really Affect Weather Patterns, Say Scientists.

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