Most of my posts on this blog tackle different topics from essentially the same perspective, which is a biological/ecological systems-influenced take on the concept of system resilience. But the basic concepts of this underlying framework are spread out among a bunch of overlapping posts. In an attempt to make each post stand on its own, I find myself spending more and more time repeating past arguments in new posts in order to set the stage for new ideas. I find this repetition incredibly boring and at the same time, this half-hearted repetition probably doesn’t do much to help a new reader either.

To try and resolve this problem, I’m going to write most of my interdisciplinary resilience material in a more hierarchical format. The format I’m going to adopt here is to distil the essential framework into short summary essay and organise the rest of my writing by domain - economics, biology, ecology, technology etc. The idea is that you should be able to read the summary essays and then dive into whichever domain takes your fancy. Conversely the core ideas explored in each domain should mostly be summarised in the summary essays. These essays will be relatively simple but the material within the domain sections will be much more detailed and often messy.

This format also allows me to reconcile my desire to draw generalised parallels across domains while at the same time exploring each domain in detail. So to kick off this experiment, I’ve posted the initial summary essay titled “All Systems Need A Little Disorder” at The basic idea in this essay - that systems that need to be robust and generate novelty need some chaos (not a lot of chaos, just a little bit) - underlies pretty much all of the posts I have written on this blog. In the next few months, I will apply and elaborate upon the basic concepts in this essay across a wider array of domains than I have explored so far.

By adopting this format, I can hopefully increase the output of material that I post online and explore new topics more easily without having to rehash old posts. At the same time new readers will hopefully have a more coherent way of navigating through my ideas. I will post links to any new material on this blog as well for those of you who subscribe to the RSS feed here. I will continue to write here but the material will probably be more limited to macroeconomics and finance than it has previously been.

As always any feedback is much appreciated. Thanks for reading.


Diego Espinosa

Great piece, Ashwin. Thanks for posting. Technocracy itself is an emergent phenomenon that arises to implement control and capture the gains from tighter coupling. It is the form of organization that produces the best "fitness" over large periods of time. As you point out, over longer periods it can lead to catastrophic instability. The check on this -- the interruption to this historical arrow towards control -- is accomplished by periodically emergent populism. Populism accomplishes de-coupling. It substitutes individual/group heuristics for centralized optimality. It periodically "refuels" micro-fragility. From a historical perspective, the question is whether something has occurred that altered this tension between technocracy and populism in favor of the former. For instance, democracy and finance could have evolved to such efficiency that the gains from control are distributed such that larger and larger numbers of voters have a stake in them. The sum of state and finance sectors to gdp is much higher than historically. From a political ecosystem perspective, the "Tea Party" or "Beppe Grillo"-type species seems necessary for the survival of the system as a whole. While one would prefer a Teddy Roosevelt, no such animal has been sighted lately.


Diego - That's a great comment. I guess many of the elements of the control project have such a wide populist support base that the periodic "refuelling" is being suppressed.


Hi Ashiwn, you seem to be saying in perhaps not so many words, that you've got to a point where you really need to write a book, rather than a blog. Is that something you have been thinking about?


Scepticus - I have thought about it and in some way this is going to be more like a book than a blog. But more of a sprawling, messy book than anything I could have written in a more conventional manner. To be honest, the main motive is just to find a way to increase my writing output. I really want to write more detailed posts in each of the domains without feeling like I have to rehash the background logic each time.


Ashwin, you can link to previous background posts instead of constantly rehashing old material. Your post at alittledisorder is great, and I'll read whatever you write wherever you post it. But I see no need for difference websites. Just add tags to posts if you want to differentiate content. Thanks for making me think, Matthew


Matthew - you're probably right. But I just feel like a lot of my writing isn't really very blog-like anyway. I also want to write a little more on some topics which are very far removed from economics but on the chaos/disorder theme so not sure everyone who reads this site needs to get that in their feeds. Another way to look at it is that the more speculative writing where I'm still developing my thoughts and that doesn't fit in any obvious hierarchy comes here, as does all the hardcore econ/finance writing obviously. Thanks for reading.