December 7th, 2016

Time and the Black Swan: no question whatsoever…

…about this choice for “Person of the Year” by Time:

For those who believe this is all for the better, Trump’s victory represents a long-overdue rebuke to an entrenched and arrogant governing class; for those who see it as for the worse, the destruction extends to cherished norms of civility and discourse, a politics poisoned by vile streams of racism, sexism, nativism. To his believers, he delivers change—broad, deep, historic change, not modest measures doled out in Dixie cups; to his detractors, he inspires fear both for what he may do and what may be done in his name.

But after that, Time actually says something I think is basic, important, and not always recognized:

Yet [Trump’s] victory mirrors the ascent of nationalists across the world, from Britain to the Philippines, and taps forces far more powerful than one man’s message.

We can scarcely grasp what our generation has wrought by putting a supercomputer into all of our hands, all of the time. If you are reading this, whether on a page or a screen, there is a very good chance that you are caught up in a revolution that may have started with enticing gadgets but has now reshaped everything about how we live, love, work, play, shop, share—how our very hearts and minds encounter the world around us. Why would we have imagined that our national conversation would simply go on as before, same people, same promises, same patterns? Perhaps the President-elect will stop tweeting—but only because he will have found some other means to tell the story he wants to tell directly to the audience that wants to hear it.

That’s what Dick Cheney was saying in the video I posted yesterday. And that’s what Richard Fernandez is saying in this essay:

What is emerging may not be the foe the Left fears. But it is conscious and therefore they are afraid: because the Left knows what they themselves would be capable of to others. Perhaps they are right to be frightened. As Ken Watanabe noted in Godzilla, nature often creates one monster to destroy another. Monsters are bad for everyone.

Still the old frameworks may be missing something important. As Dilbert’s Scott Adams notes in his blog all the old ploys are failing because they have unintended consequences in the 21st century that may not have had in the last. Consensus is no longer adequate for pronouncing on the truth and bureaucracies are no longer capable of enforcing edicts from on high.

…Exclusivity which was once an advantage has been supplanted by connectivity. Once connectivity rules there can be no Elect…

…[T]he emerging challenge to the Left will consist not of something like itself, but different from it. They have been conditioned to expect a like of themselves because that is what 19th and 20th century technology could support. What they [are] unprepared for is something disinterested in its vanities or the insusceptible to its old categories; something now viable because there is now the technological means to support it.

It’s not just the Left, either, that doesn’t know what to expect. We know what we hope for—at least in general terms—but we don’t know what we will get. No one does, and that’s nothing new. We go forward into the future as best we can.

Fernandez’s essay is entitled, “Suppose It is a Black Swan?” Black swans are neither bad nor good, they are “either” or sometimes “a mixture of both.” What they are is unpredictable.

28 Responses to “Time and the Black Swan: no question whatsoever…”

  1. miklos000rosza Says:

    I recommend the extended examination of this episode in Michael Burleigh’s “Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War Two.”

  2. Big Maq Says:

    Have (re)read several of Taleb’s books.

    We are seeing a realignment of media and politics:

    And, it is not necessarily all for the good:

  3. Big Maq Says:

    Also, uncertainty has it’s own costs.

    It will be some time before we can “predict” trump, as we will have to see him actually do things rather than say things, of which he’s done plenty.

    Also, trump hasn’t promised to move towards an “anti-fragile” state, as Taleb would argue for.

  4. mollyNH Says:

    All * this* whirling around us and yet Obama called for a “Curator” to determine the news for us poor schleps
    That tells me that they still don’t get it. LOL
    News Curator, Ministry of Truth. It was all so tantalizingly close for the Left, they reached and just skimmed that apple.

  5. Tatterdemalian Says:

    Personally, I was hoping the MSM would scramble to remove all the executive powers they’ve bestowed upon Obama, before Trump takes office. It seems Obama has shut them down, though, and is quite willing to let Trump burn the USA down just because we voted against the chosen heir to his executive overreach.

    So, looks like time for Plan B: impeach Trump the first time he tries to use any of the executive powers the MSM granted to Obama. If he’s smart, Trump took lots if notes about precedents Obama and the MSM established, and will bring them all up at every hearing.

  6. neo-neocon Says:


    You hit the nail on the head with that one. “Tantalizingly close” is the reason this election is so very difficult for the left, and why the right isn’t just happy, but stunned at the fact that, when it least expected it, it now has control of every branch of government (because it is poised to control SCOTUS, too). The shock and reversal is immense for both parties, although one is sad and one is happy.

  7. mollyNH Says:

    It’s now really the emergence the individual, brought about by free speech via our gadgets Neo. It’s a wonderful thing as zip see it, Tweet away Trump . Nullify the hated media. For Republicans how can it be any sweeter all the branches of government & a huge crack where the media used to be similar to Guttenberg printing the bible then books became available to the masses. I know, they needed to be taught to read too, but then as now there is possibility.

  8. mollyNH Says:

    Zip= I. Goofy spell check

  9. Ann Says:

    I think it’s a bit early to put it all down to a great flowering of the individual, free speech, etc. It could all be Trump that’s the phenomenon pushing this. None of this may transfer to any other Republican, let alone to conservatives.

  10. brdavis9 Says:

    Ah Ann. But here: this win is actually big enough and wide-spread enough that I believe it does indeed “transfer” to all of us. To the nation. Dare I suggest, to the world?

    …I was prepared to be hunkering down for the next 20-30 years in the wilderness. Probably too long to see the pendulum swing (I’m at an age), if it ever would again.


    Not so much.

    Black swan indeed.

    I am tickled pink. I have been smiling for weeks. I giggle unexpectedly at inappropriate times.

    I believe it.

    But I can’t believe it.

    Yet. I do.

  11. mollyNH Says:

    So you think the genie can be stuffed back into the bottle?
    Do you think president Trump will stop tweeting And let the media interpert him? Will Neo s blog be outlawed will you be stopped from creating one yourself? The Republicans were accidental beneficiaries of all this. Political affiliations will diminish in importance.

  12. T Says:

    If you are reading this, whether on a page or a screen, there is a very good chance that you are caught up in a revolution that may have started with enticing gadgets but has now reshaped everything about how we live, love, work, play, shop, share—how our very hearts and minds encounter the world around us. Why would we have imagined that our national conversation would simply go on as before, . . . .

    This is true. The error that we, as human beings, consistently repeat, as if we could do otherwise, is to look into the future with the eyes of our own present. Think about science fiction in the 1950s and the concept of interstellar space travel with vacuum tubes and analogue gauges. It looks absurd from our perspective now, but was the only concievabel technology of the time.

    That is why breakthroughs require vision; an ability to see something other than what everyone else sees, an ability to think outside the present box.

    Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were examples of this. At a time when computers still relied on tape-drive storage, were the size of a room, and cost well beyond the budget of an average household, they conceived of the computer as a universal and financially available tool. It is that vision which catapults us to new ages.

    The interesting thing about Trump is that IMO he’s not a visionary in the sense of <Inew ideas, but he may prove to be a visionary in that he will transfer ideas and protocols from a business universe (getting things done) into the moribund world of politics. This could prove to be a catalytic point of departure; we will have to wait and see.

  13. OM Says:

    “Getting things done” in politics is not visionary. The ends and the means matter more than just things getting done, or it is the same old story

  14. Matt_SE Says:

    Prediction: Whatever “it” is in this new century, it will be first used for porn.

  15. Ymarsakar Says:

    Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were examples of this. At a time when computers still relied on tape-drive storage, were the size of a room, and cost well beyond the budget of an average household, they conceived of the computer as a universal and financially available tool. It is that vision which catapults us to new ages.

    There are also quantum computers now.

    As for Trum, what makes him special in this hour of the dead Republic isn’t so much his business favors and deals. As I might have mentioned, Trum is a man of the deal. He thinks anyone can be bought and thus has a price, even himself.

    What makes Trum special is that he was the person the Alt Right pushed into power, at the time when the Alt Right was first forming and wanted a political lever.

    Had the Alt Right been empowered by the net in 2001, under Bush II, similar things would have happened if Bush II had accepted the advice of the Alt Right.

  16. Ymarsakar Says:

    To predict Trum, all one needs to do is to predict where the ALt Right is moving the herd.

    The same was true for the Democrats on Iraq. To predict their actions of betrayal, all one had to do was look at the anti war Leftists or the Left’s previous behavior in Vietnam.

  17. geokstr Says:

    “We taught those Germans a lesson. They’ll never bomb Pearl Harbor again.”

    Sen. John Blutarsky

  18. Big Maq Says:

    @Ann – brdavis’ premature efflux on trump notwithstanding, you are right to be skeptical if we really will be in a new era of individual freedom, and boomtimes at trump’s helmsmanship.

    If so, then it would clearly have the trump label on it, he will see to it.

    As I listen around here and other net spaces, there is much speculation, both good and bad, that rivals, or exceeds that in 2008 wrt obama and what he was to bring.

    A great many folks then were downright giddy and absolute in their surety of all the goodness obama was going to bring.

    I recall the “conservative” media then calling those folks LIVs who were delusional.

    We will see, w trump.

  19. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Asymmetric warfare has been the ruin of us since the Iron Curtain disintegrated. The fact that Trump is himself asymmetric because there is such an Improv Night attitude about him is worrisome in many ways. But it may be an advantage in dealing with Third World crazies.

    I do still believe we have a serious economic downturn in front of us, driven by debt, and Trump doesn’t change that. He will be blamed, and ordinarily one would think that his support and popularity would be eroded. Most politicians would be weakened and chastened by that. Yet I think that is one more surprise of Trump. Even if his base abandons him, he still might not change.

    Obama demonstrated that sometimes a president can do whatever the hell he wants, even if his friends are telling him to slow down. Trump is going to take that and run. It’s not just that elites are afraid because they don’t control Trump, or the Chinese on their heels because he has gone on the offensive – Trump’s friends don’t control him either. We’d better hope he’s right more than half the time.

  20. Cornhead Says:

    Orange swan.

  21. J.J Says:

    Trump is opening our eyes to the fact that the MSM and the political elite have established a narrative that was supposed to be inviolable.

    You can’t say mean things about another politician, you can’t be for closing the border, you can’t be against climate change policy, you can’t talk to the leader of Taiwan, you have to be nice to the MSM because they have the power to destroy you, the President can’t tweet because it’s too undignified, nothing can be done about the trade deficit, 1-2% growth is the new normal, etc., etc. were accepted as conventional wisdom…….until Trump came along.

    I remember Harry Truman. My grandparents were staunch Republicans and they hated Harry. He was too uncouth, too common, connected to the Prendergast gang, a “little” man, etc. That was what I thought about Truman until I worked with a man who was his Naval Attach’e. He told me about the Truman who stood up to Stalin at Potsdam, who made the call on dropping the atomic bombs, who fired McArthur, etc. That changed my thinking about Truman. I think Trump is another public figure like Truman. People may think he’s coarse, vulgar, narcissistic and more, but he may well be a man who can take the big decisions and make most of them right. Let us hope. And, we’ll see.

  22. neo-neocon Says:


    Here you go.

  23. mollyNH Says:

    Lovely pics Neo, overdosing on Orange lol

  24. mollyNH Says:

    Or as I read recently. Left needs to be told. Orange is the new Black

  25. Big Maq Says:

    Clever, Cornhead!

  26. Sergey Says:

    What it really looks like is a new wave of Reformation. Just as invention of printed books made the Church total control of societies impossible, Internet connectivity made impossible total control of political elites and their propaganda branch, mass media, of the masses. Consequences are multiple, diverse and unpredictable.

  27. Sergey Says:

    The Church of liberalism is shaken at its fundamentals. If so, Trump is much more than new Truman, he may be a new Luther.

  28. OM Says:

    Nothing goes with orange, or so I’ve heard.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

Monthly Archives


Ace (bold)
AmericanDigest (writer’s digest)
AmericanThinker (thought full)
Anchoress (first things first)
AnnAlthouse (more than law)
AtlasShrugs (fearless)
AugeanStables (historian’s task)
Baldilocks (outspoken)
Barcepundit (theBrainInSpain)
Beldar (Texas lawman)
BelmontClub (deep thoughts)
Betsy’sPage (teach)
Bookworm (writingReader)
Breitbart (big)
ChicagoBoyz (boyz will be)
Contentions (CommentaryBlog)
DanielInVenezuela (against tyranny)
DeanEsmay (conservative liberal)
Donklephant (political chimera)
Dr.Helen (rights of man)
Dr.Sanity (thinking shrink)
DreamsToLightening (Asher)
EdDriscoll (market liberal)
Fausta’sBlog (opinionated)
GayPatriot (self-explanatory)
HadEnoughTherapy? (yep)
HotAir (a roomful)
InFromTheCold (once a spook)
InstaPundit (the hub)
JawaReport (the doctor is Rusty)
LegalInsurrection (law prof)
RedState (conservative)
Maggie’sFarm (centrist commune)
MelaniePhillips (formidable)
MerylYourish (centrist)
MichaelTotten (globetrotter)
MichaelYon (War Zones)
Michelle Malkin (clarion pen)
Michelle Obama's Mirror (reflections)
MudvilleGazette (milblog central)
NoPasaran! (behind French facade)
NormanGeras (principled leftist)
OneCosmos (Gagdad Bob’s blog)
PJMedia (comprehensive)
PointOfNoReturn (Jewish refugees)
Powerline (foursight)
ProteinWisdom (wiseguy)
QandO (neolibertarian)
RachelLucas (in Italy)
RogerL.Simon (PJ guy)
SecondDraft (be the judge)
SeekerBlog (inquiring minds)
SisterToldjah (she said)
Sisu (commentary plus cats)
Spengler (Goldman)
TheDoctorIsIn (indeed)
Tigerhawk (eclectic talk)
VictorDavisHanson (prof)
Vodkapundit (drinker-thinker)
Volokh (lawblog)
Zombie (alive)

Regent Badge