When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going

Great phrase, but what does it mean? Well, maybe it has something to do with the fact that a lot of economic and political news seem to be entering kind of “end game.” But, it’s now the “lazy days of summer,” and there is a temptation to sit back and just watch it whiz by.

What are the options?

One is to go more analytical. I’ve recently updated my knowledge base on some esoteric topics –mathematically and analytically interesting – such as kernel ridge regression and dynamic principal components. I’ve previously mentioned these, and there are more instances of analysis to consider. What about them? Are they worth the enormous complexity and computational detail?

Another is to embrace the humming, buzzing confusion and consider “geopolitical risk.” The theme might be the price of oil and impacts, perhaps, of continuing and higher oil prices.

Or the proliferation of open warfare.

Rarely in recent decades have we seen outright armed conflict in Europe, as appears to be on-going in the Ukraine.

And I cannot make much sense of developments in the Mid-East, with some shadowy group called Isis scooping up vast amounts of battlefield armaments abandoned by collapsing Iraqi units.

Or how to understand Israeli bombardment of UN schools in Gaza, and continuing attacks on Israel with drones by Hamas. What is the extent and impact of increasing geopolitical risk?

There also is the issue of plague – most immediately ebola in Africa. A few days ago, I spent the better part of a day in the Boston Airport, and, to pass the time, read the latest Dan Brown book about a diabolical scheme to release an aerosol epidemic of sorts. In any case, ebola is in a way a token of a range of threats that stand just outside the likely. For example, there is the problem of the evolution of immune strains of bacteria, with widespread prescription and use.

There also is the ever-bloating financial bubble that has emerged in the US and elsewhere, as a result of various tactics of central and other banks in reaction to the Great Recession, and behavior of investors.

Finally, there are longer range scientific and technological possibilities. From my standpoint, we are making a hash of things generally. But efforts at political reform, by themselves, usually fall short, unless paralleled by fundamental new possibilities in production or human organization. And the promise of radical innovation for the betterment of things has never seemed brighter.

I will be exploring some of these topics and options in coming posts this week and in coming weeks.

And I think by now I have discovered a personal truth through writing – one that resonates with other experiences of mine professionally and personally. And that is sometimes it is just when the way to going further seems hard to make out that concentration of thought and energies may lead to new insight.

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