Mitigating risk by adjusting your perspective

financial messAnyone in the US, and probably elsewhere has been aware of the current economic situation, or at least how it’s advertised.

What baffles me is how greater control over a chaotic system is going to make things any better? I understand the need for politicians to provide a solution to the voters, even when it doesn’t make logical sense, but if you’re going to intervene, why do it in a way that’s lousy?

Engineering has known that complex systems that cause risk can be dealt with safely by expecting failure, and minimizing the damage it does as a result. If you can’t control it, make it so it doesn’t hurt anything.

Full disclosure: I personally think that the current situation isn’t a failure, but a great example of how well a capitalist system works, but that’s beyond the point of the this article.

If you know things will fail, and there’s no historical indication that anything you do with avert this, you should minimize the impact of the failure through techniques as distribution, networking, and redundancy. In effect, what is being championed now is the precise opposite of what you should be doing in this situation.

Web Analogy: If you have a hardware, you know that eventually it will break. Your RAID array will lose a hard drive at some point given enough time. When it does the system will slow down and that sucks. So what do you do?

Government solution: Suspect the RAID array architecture, and throw it away to be replaced with a single drive because it’s easier to directly control it.

What a system administrator does: Get several servers, all with RAID arrays, setup load-sharing and automatic failover to minimize the impact of a single hard drive failure.

I am not an economist (IANAE) but I have noticed a couple things that apply here:

  • We’re not good at predicting policy efficacy.
  • Large economic units are slow to respond to a new environment, or catastrophic change.
  • Large economic units can fail as fast as small ones.

Given the above, centralization of control will offer no gain and predictably increase risk due to the nature of large human controlled systems. Instead I offer the following broad strategy:

  • Find likely points of failure
  • Strengthen them if possible through distribution of load
  • Reduce the effects of failure by introducing and allowing many redundant or individual systems that are more expendable without causing problems in the system as a whole.

This works. Why aren’t we doing it? Support the small business, reduce centralized points of failure by limiting government intervention, discourage large multinational control structures.

Because the tighter you squeeze a bar of soap, the more likely it’s going to fly out of the shower.

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