Thursday, February 03, 2011

Chart Week: The Resilience/Vulnerability of the Status Quo

There is a peculiar divide between the conventional and unconventional perception of the resilience/vulnerability of the Status Quo.

The conventional view sees the Status Quo as stable and powerful enough to weather any threat or storm short of a full-scale thermonuclear war (i.e. an exchange of 1,000+ nuclear warheads) or climate catastrophe (meltdown of the Antarctic ice cap, etc.).

The unconventional view is that the Status Quo is increasingly vulnerable to a "Black Swan" type catalyst: disruption in the global oil supply chain, a global climate event, hyper-inflation that destroys the dollar, etc.

A few years ago I sketched out the basic power nodes of the Status Quo:

If I were technically adept on graphics, I would add roll-over charts of each node's total employment and budget. But interestingly, these two data points would not necessarily reflect the power and influence concentrated in each node.

For instance, the Federal Reserve has relatively few employees and a modest budget.

One conclusion I draw from this chart is that a whole heap of folks are deeply committed to sustaining the Status Quo. That deep desire to maintain their perquisites and status certainly add to the system's resiliency.

If I were technically adept on graphics, I would configure this into a 3-D chart with lines between various nodes that reflected the strength of the ties. That configuration would tell us more about the networks within the Status Quo than budgets or personnel numbers.

I purposefully drew this chart to mimic brain cells and neural networks. The more connections and nodes in a network, the greater its resiliency. Those expecting a tipping-point cascade collapse of the entire Status Quo may be surprised by the system's reserves of resilience, some of which is depicted in this crude chart.

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