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Will World War 3 Be Prevented Because of Global Interdependence?

May 27, 2016

Nine wars have been predicted to erupt since the early 1990s, and all have failed to materialize, says global strategist and CNN analyst, Parag Khanna. That’s a result of trade, the interconnectedness of financial markets, and supply chain integration.


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Posted by spud100  on  05/29  at  01:52 PM

Just a few observations of mine PK.

You assert that the US and the Soviet Union did not trade much, however, you are not considering the US - Soviet Wheat deals of the 1970's and 80's.

These were large, for their time, trade deals, and yet, in 1983, the Soviets expected a US attack in 1983, during a NATO troop exercise. Using this, as an example, it mitigates against the concept that trade brings stability in relations.

One can also look to the Pact of Steel, tween Hitler and Stalin, in August 1939, that lasted until May 1941, when Hitler turned from his war against Britain, and struck first against the Soviets. During this "peace" the Germans traded industrial equipment, in exchange for minerals, like molybdenum, that came from the Urals.

Are we less likely to stumble into a 1914 style leadership failure like Europe experienced, because we trade more? Look at Xi's building of Islands in the Pacific, and view Putin's expansionism. I do not view our oligarchs, China's oligarchs, or Russian oligarchs, being able to exercise sufficient control over each nation's politicians. These business people are very bright, but not blindingly, so. They're good, but not that good.

Note: In India, PM, Modi, is not refraining from expanding his naval capabilities (another player in this game!) due, in large part, to US perceived weakness, in the Pacific-Indian oceans regions. Power vacuums create instability and opportunities for those who are bold enough, and see the resulting counter-punch as ineffectual. (The US's).

Posted by Peter Wicks  on  05/29  at  02:28 PM

Haven't seen the video, but the idea that "trade, the interconnectedness of financial markets, and supply chain integration" will save us from WW3 seems dangerously naïve to me. Perhaps these things can help, to some extent, but it also creates dangerous system vulnerabilities (insufficient redundancy in the system making it less resilient to shocks).

If we want to live long and prosper, in this globally interconnected world, we urgently need to address system vulnerabilities. I think big data and data analytics can help with this, and using those tools for this purpose would also, I believe, help to address Bostrom et al's concerns about the risk of a catastrophic intelligence explosion. Using big data and data analytics (including deep learning etc) to meet conservative (with a small c) goals, such as preserving or enhancing system stability, would seem to have a potential to help steer the development of AI in a relatively "safe" direction. By contrast, as long as they are used primarily for commercial or military (i.e. competitive) purposes, I think we run a much greater risk of "paper-clip Armageddon".

But I'd be interested to know what others think!

Posted by Peter Wicks  on  05/30  at  05:17 AM

Yes. Quite. As you say, "you can't be cynical about that which is already as cynical as can be to begin with.

And yes, I think part of what motivated my comment was indeed a certain "fatigue" with what appears - without, I will again admit, having actually looked at the video (shame on me!) - to be another chirpy prediction from a pundit who I suspect is, to some extent (as am I still, to a large extent, for the time being), buffered from the realities of this much-touted "interdependence". "Dangerously naïve" is indeed the expression that sprang to mind.

Yet let's back up a bit, and examine a bit more closely your claim that one "can't be [too] cynical about that which is already as cynical as can be to begin with". I guess you would agree that this statement was also itself an expression of your fatigue at reading "chirpy predictions from pundits buffered from the realities of interdependence". But can one, after all, be too "cynical"? And is reality really about as cynical as it can be?

In a way, I guess it is this kind of perception that drove Gautama's thinking. He took a look at certain "realities", from which he had previously been sheltered, and came to the conclusion that all life was suffering and the best one could hope for was some kind of nirvana of detachment and non-existence. But we both know that this kind of thing satisfies no-one for very long, not even Buddhist monks. So we suspend cynicism, and embrace hope, even if it is only that we will wake up again tomorrow morning and struggle on for one more day.

Is "the world" an abstraction? Sure, in the sense that the reality is vastly more complicated than anything you or I can say or think about it. But then the same can be said for my body, and I certainly don't regard that as an "abstraction". I prefer to see the world as a *system*, a system that harnesses the entropy gap between incoming sunlight and outgoing radiation (also geothermal energy and radioactive isotopes here on earth, if we want to be a bit more precise about this) to maintain a kind of homeostasis that is a very long way from thermodynamic equilibirum.

Over the last 10,000 years or so, that system has been in an unusually stable state, climatically speaking, perhaps in part as a result of the development of human civilisation. But as any good Taoist could have predicted, this period of stability contained within it the seeds of its own demise, namely the very human civilisation that it helped to nurture. And now the earth system is very clearly transitioning to a very different state.

What that state will look like, neither you or I can predict with any kind of reliability, and nor can any other "pundit", sheltered or un-sheltered from various "realities of interdependence". Which is not, however, to say that the predictions we do make have no value. But caution is certainly required. A bull market in prisons (involuntary homeless shelters indeed) certainly seems like a more plausible prediction, both because it is relatively short term and because it is clearly *not* based on wishful thinking. Just astute observation, experience, and competent reasoning.

Coming a bit back on-topic, then, it seems clear that some kind of WW3-like scenario is not an unlikely scenario, as the earth system continues to transition away from the state it has been in towards something unknown, and probably catastrophic for humanity. In any case, it is only one kind of catastrophe that we have good reason to fear. The best thing we can do, in my view, is to consider what all of this might mean for us personally, and those we love. It's the best way, in my view, to steer a sensible course between leftist (or new-liberal, which bizarrely tends to conflated with "conservative" in the English-speaking world, perhaps because we invented it) globaloney and morbid defeatism (which is also a risk, if one works too hard to resist wishful thinking).

Posted by spud100  on  05/30  at  02:02 PM

I agree with you on your last paragraph, and I agree because the rich businesses that fund both political parties in the US form, essentially, an oligarchy (de facto), and are successful at getting people to vote for their selected and purchased candidates. If they were not successful at this, then no oligarchy.

The Left, worldwide, seeks to import more voters so that in the US, the democrats, and in the UK, Labor, will always have a plurality. If you don't wish to please Americans, for example, import more voters. Legalizing their votes (in the US all this needs is a pen and an executive order to do so). This seems true as well in the EU. Reps want cheap workers, Dems want cheap workers and guaranteed voters.

Speaking of the EU, Peter, I was asking someone on the Kurzweilai Forum, this morning, about a comment he made regarding tariffs on imported cars from east Asia. He submitted that this was the only thing keeping EU auto companies, alive were tariffs. I asked the poster, how were EU auto companies doing, and I await a reply. My point is that unlike the US which has lost hugely, from a middle class point of view, how do tariffs effect the EU worker?

Posted by Peter Wicks  on  05/31  at  03:13 AM

How do tariffs effect the EU worker? That's a big question, I guess. I don't think anyone really knows. The free trade brigade would say that we should be trying to get rid of all tariffs - this is the kind of thinking that drives the WTO - and it makes a kind of sense. In principle, any barrier to trade should be counter-productive in terms of overall well-being.

But the "principle" I am referring to here is basically neo-liberal, Chicago-school, "the world is flat" kind of Adam Smithery, and behavioral economics shows us that the assumptions on which that kind of thinking is based just don't hold, in general. So I would be cautious about *assuming* that tariffs hurt the middle class (at least here in Europe) by making imported cars more expensive.

It's not that I want to defend the German car industry or the extent to which the EU machine is geared (excuse the pun!) towards protecting it. If you want to get me started on "Germans behaving badly" then just mention "Greece" and "austerity" in the same sentence. There's a lot of hypocrisy around, and bad policy occurring as a result.

Yet let's consider again Instamatic's reflections. Given the "cynical" world we live in (populated by human apes with Stone Age brains, not the honorable ladies and gentleman of our wishful imaginations), we should hardly be surprised. And neither should we let ourselves be tempted by Brexit, Trump, and other forms of facile escapism, which will only make a bad situation worse. (And after all it's not ALL bad, is it?)

Posted by Peter Wicks  on  06/01  at  03:20 AM

I think you can get somewhere with a systems perspective. Hence my emphasis on entropy and the earth system. And then there is the March of AI, with the risks and opportunities that potentially brings.

Is disempowered the elite (and would-be elite) the way to go? Perhaps, but I remain to be convinced. To be convinced, I would need to be presented with some kind of concept of what will happen afterwards that I found at least somewhat plausible. Otherwise, isn't this just Marxism dressed up as popular "conservativism"? And what can be remotely "conservative" about disempowering those currently in power? Surely that is the opposite of conservativism?

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