Current Trends: Complexity Lens Workshop, Singapore

Improving global governance
Aug 02, 2015 | Seán Cleary, Executive Vice Chair, FutureWorld Foundation

Deepening cultural and geopolitical fault-lines, the financial crisis and the unconventional monetary policies employed to address it, widespread chronic youth unemployment, inequality of wealth and income, and weak governance of the commons, have eroded trust in institutions and promoted populism and sectarianism.
These are not discrete geopolitical, geoeconomic, macroeconomic, societal, cultural, legal, and technological challenges. Each is related to others in a complex system defined chiefly by extreme sensitivity to initial conditions; multiple (meta)stable states, and a propensity for self-organizing criticality. One needs to explore the relationships between long range geo-economic trends; higher returns to capital and falling returns to labour, reinforced by disruptive congruent technologies, and leading to jobless growth; the return of geopolitics prompting culturally stressful migratory flows; the weakening of representative democracy; and the impacts of humanity in the Anthropocene:

We may be facing the equivalent of a spontaneous symmetry break, a point at which the working of a complex system transitions from a symmetric but ill-defined state, into an asymmetrical state, although the underlying laws are invariant. The profound, multivariate asymmetry between the scale and depth of the global economy, the absence of a commensurate, inclusive community, and the defective state (or absence) of a global polity may make this inevitable. On a related plane – partially orthogonal to the first – the impact of a far more numerous (7.2 billion), economically and technologically empowered human species is influencing the workings of the bio-geosphere in unprecedented ways that we can identify individually, but not comprehend systemically.
This goes far beyond climate: The concept of planetary boundaries (Rockström et al, 2009 is familiar, but despite continuing impressive research, the nature and workings of the system are undetermined. (Steffen et al. 2015. Planetary Boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing plane, Science, January 2015,,

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