Transcript: Brian Klaas



The transcript from this week’s, MiB: Brian Klaas on Flukes, Chance, & Chaos, is below.

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This is Masters in business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio.

Barry Ritholtz: This week on the podcast, I have a fascinating guest. His name is Brian Klaas. He teaches at the University College London, where he focuses on global politics. And he has written a book that I have just plowed through the first half of and found absolutely fascinating FLUKE Chance, chaos and Why Everything We Do Matters. He, he just really explains why our understanding of cause and effect is so flawed, that we think that a, naturally leads to B, which leads to C and instead the world is far more random and complex, and little things that happened years ago, sometimes thousands or millions of years ago, have a giant impact on what happens today. It really turns your view on causation upside down and makes you rethink just how random everything is. I found the book fascinating and I found our conversation fascinating, and I think you will also, with no further ado, my conversation with the author of FLUKE, Brian Klaas.

Brian Klaas: It’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me on the show.

Barry Ritholtz: So this book is all confirmation bias for me. We’ll, we’ll jump into this in a bit. I’m about halfway through it and really, really enjoying it. But I have to start out with a story you tell in the introduction to the book. You’re 20 years old, your father pulls you aside, shows you a newspaper clipping from 19 0 4 5, and the headline is Terrible Act of Insane Woman. Tell us about that woman, Clara Magdalene Janssen and and what she did.

Brian Klaas: Yeah, so this story is from a place called Keila, Wisconsin, a little rural farmhouse in 1905, and she’s got four young children and she probably has what we would determine as postpartum depression, but of course they don’t know what that is in 1905 and she has a mental breakdown. And so she ends up tragically killing all of her kids and then taking her own life and her husband comes home to the farmhouse and finds his whole family dead. And you could just imagine the horror of this. And the, the reason I put this in the introduction to Fluke is because this is my great- grandfather’s first wife. And so one of the things that was really extraordinary for me was that I went through my first 20 odd years of life not knowing about this dark chapter in my family history, but after I saw this newspaper headline, you know, sort of get over the shock of knowing this about your, your own family, but then you realize that you don’t exist unless this had happened to me. Right? So you you wouldn’t be listening to my voice unless these children had died.

Barry Ritholtz: So, so following that tragedy Yeah. Your grandfather moves on with his life. Exactly. Eventually, remarries the woman who becomes my great grandmother. Your great grandmother. So, but for this random, horrible event, we are not here having this conversation.

Brian Klaas: Exactly. And this is where, you know, this is why I started getting interested in applying things like chaos theory to human society and also to our own lives. Because of course, you know, Clara, when she decided to do this horrible thing to her children and also take her own life, she had no way of knowing that 119 years later, you know, you and I would be talking on Bloomberg, but that’s, that’s the way it is, right? That’s the way the world works. And so I think this is the kind of stuff where we tend to imagine that there’s just sort of these, you know, build big building blocks of life, like the really obvious variables that create outcomes. And the argument I’m making is actually, you know, it’s, it’s sort of heretical to the, you know, look for the signal, not the noise, because I am a byproduct of the noise.

Barry Ritholtz: So, so the rational cause and effect A leads to B or so, that’s one individual. And obviously one individual can change a future set of bloodlines. Let’s take this a little bigger. Let’s talk about Mr. And Mrs. Stinson who go on vacation in Coyote Japan in 1926. How significant can that vacation possibly be?

Brian Klaas: Yeah, so this is, this is a couple. Mr. And Mrs. HL Stimson, they go to Kyoto Japan on a holiday, on a vacation in 1926. And they just fall in love with the city. It’s an experience that a lot of us have where you go on vacation, you get a soft spot for wherever you’ve gone, you know, to to, to relax and so on. And they just find it utterly charming. Now, 19 years later, this turns out to matter quite a lot because the husband of the couple, Henry Stimson ends up as America’s Secretary of War. And the target committee approaches him with their recommendations of where to drop the first atomic bomb in 1945. And top of the list unequivocal Kyoto. Now, he very

Barry Ritholtz: Not, not Tokyo, which has already been demolished,

Brian Klaas: Tokyo’s basically been destroyed. There’s a, there’s an argument here that Kyoto’s just opened up a, a war plane factory. It’s a former imperial capital, so it has sort of propaganda value for, you know, reducing Japanese morale. So all the generals say, look, this is a good idea. This is where we should drop the bomb. And you know, Stimson basically springs to action because they, the, the, the generals started calling it his pet city ’cause he kept talking about it and he twice met with President Truman in person. We have records of the meetings and so on, and basically said, you have to take this off the list and eventually Truman re relent. And so the first bomb gets dropped on Hiroshima instead. Now the second bomb is supposed to go to a place called Coura. And as the bomber gets to Coura, there’s briefly cloud cover and they don’t want to accidentally drop the bomb somewhere that’s not the city, because of course that would not have the same effect. So they decide to go to the secondary target, which is Nagasaki. They, they literally

Barry Ritholtz: Do a loop to, to see, hey, maybe it clears up. Yes, it doesn’t. Yep. And onto Ngassa. Exactly.

Brian Klaas: They, they actually, I think do loops until they’re running low on fuel and they’re starting to think, okay, we we’re not gonna make it to the secondary target. So they finally, you know, pull the plug on Coura, drop the bomb on, on Nagasaki. So hundreds of thousands of people live or die in these, in these cities based on a 19-year-old vacation and a cloud. And the, and the point that I think is important to, to realize here is that, you know, if you were modeling this, if you’re trying to say like, how is the US government going to determine where to drop the atomic bomb? You would not put in your model the vacation histories of American government officials or like cloud cover, right? You would come up with these very obvious big things like where are the places that have strategic importance or propaganda value? And if you did that, you probably would put Kyoto on top of the list and you get the wrong answer and you wouldn’t get the wrong answer because you were stupid. You’d get the wrong answer. Because sometimes things that don’t seem to be important actually end up being the most important factor in an outcome.

Barry Ritholtz: And, and the Japanese actually have an expression, cocoa’s luck. Tell us what that means to the Japanese. Yeah, I,

Brian Klaas: I think this is a very useful thing to think about. It’s cocoa’s luck refers to when you unknowingly escape disaster. So it was a long time before the US government acknowledged that they were planning to drop the bomb on Kaku. So, you know, hundreds of thousands of people in that city had no idea there was an airplane over them that, but for a cloud would’ve incinerated the entire city and killed most of them. And so I think this is the kind of thing where, you know, one of the ideas that is central to the argument in Fluke is that these sorts of things, this coco as luck is happening to us all the time, right? We we’re completely oblivious to the diversions in our lives and our societies, the alternative possible histories, simply because we can only experience one reality. And what we do is we then stitch a narrative back where it’s A to B, this makes complete sense, here are the five reasons why this happened. And in fact, I think this is a way that we end up diluting ourselves into a neater and tidier version of the real world.

Barry Ritholtz: So you describe why we can’t know what matters most because we can’t see the alternative universes. I I love this quote. We ignore the invisible pivots, the moments that we will never realize we’re consequential the near misses and near hits that are unknown to us because we’ve never seen, and we’ll never see our alternative possible lives that that’s really very chilling to know that we’re just walking through life unaware that hey, atomic bomb over our head, better hope the clouds don’t clear up.

Brian Klaas: Barry Ritholtz:  Yeah, I have this saying that I refer to a lot in, in the book, which is that we control nothing but we influence everything. And this is, when you think about this in our own lives, I think this is something where you realize that there are these diversions happening constantly. There’s a film in the 1990s with Gwyneth Paltrow called Sliding Doors. Sure. And it has this idea, and I, I sort of riff on that with this concept I coined called the snooze button effect. Where I, you, you imagine that, you know, it’s Tuesday morning, you’re a little bit groggy, wake up, the snooze button beckons to you, you slap it, and you get delayed by five minutes. You imagine you’re now your life rewinds by 30 seconds and you say, no, I won’t hit the snooze button. I’ll get outta bed Now. I think that has changed your life.

00:08:45 Now the question is how much has it changed your life? And under some short time scales, maybe things sort of get ironed out in the end, but you, you’re gonna have different conversations that day. You’re gonna talk to different people you might get in a car accident in some days, right? I mean, these are the kinds of things that we sort of are oblivious to. And I think when you think about them with social change, it’s happening all the time too. I mean, there’s just so many ways that the world could have unfolded differently, but for a few small changes, I mean, you know, you think about even like nine 11, we think about all the variables that go into nine 11. One of them that people don’t talk about was the weather. It was an incredibly blue, blue sky day crisp. Yeah. And if you had, if you had a, you know, a very, very cloudy day or a storm, some of the planes wouldn’t have taken off on time.

00:09:25 They might’ve had a chance to foil some of the plots, or if you had had a different slate of passengers on flight 93. So if it had gone September 10th or September 12th, maybe those passengers don’t take down the plane, maybe the White House or the capitol’s destroyed, and then the world’s different. I mean, you know, can you imagine how, how it would change America or, or, or geopolitics if there was no White House anymore? So I think these are the kinds of things where, you know, you, you, you just imagine that there’s this straight line of cause and effect. And of course when we experience the world, we then explain it. But, you know, these small changes could really reshape the future. Some of them are gonna be more consequential, like the Kyoto story. Others are gonna, you know, be a little bit less consequential, at least on human timescales. But the point is, we can’t know. And I think that’s something that is bewildering to think about.

00:10:09 [Speaker Changed] So can we actually identify cause and effect? We, we tell ourselves stories. We, we have not only narrative fallacy in everything we do, ’cause we love a good plot line, but there’s also hindsight bias where we imagine, oh, I knew this was coming all along and, and you know, can we really truly know the impact of what, how A leads to B or how something that we think is completely meaningless actually has deep significance.

00:10:40 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. So I very much subscribed to this view that all models are wrong, but some are useful. George box. Yes, exactly. But I think that one of the things that has been lost on us is I think there’s so much of the world that runs on models that we sometimes forget that they are extremely simplified abstractions of reality, and that we actually don’t understand how the causation works. And I think that creates hubris, that’s dangerous. So, you know, when you think about why the atomic bomb ended up getting dropped on Hiroshima, an infinite number of causes, and, and there are things that we would not think about, right? Geological forces for Gene uranium millions of years ago as part of that story, Einstein being born as part of that story, the Battle of Midway pivoting on a, a fluke event where the US wins because they just happen to stumble upon the Japanese fleet at the right moment.

00:11:21 Right? I mean, if any of these things have been different, there’s like, there’s an almost infinite number of them where little tweak would’ve been different, a different outcome would’ve happened. Now for the useful navigation of society, we have to simplify reality because we can’t build a model that has 900,000 variables, right? So what you instead do is you sort of say, okay, this is, this is a crude version of reality. And I think like, you know, one of the things that is, is really useful about some models like Google Maps for example, we know that’s not the world, right? We know the map is not the territory. You look at Google Maps and you’re not like, oh, well I imagine that that’s what, what the real world looks like. It’s a, it’s a clear abstraction. I think when we start to get into forecasting and other modeling of social change, I think we lose sight of the fact that we have a Google Maps distortion and that we’re actually looking at something that is potentially useful to navigate, but is very, very different from the real world. Huh.

00:12:11 [Speaker Changed] Really interesting. So, so let’s talk about the way different schools of thought perceive and manage these, these philosophical differences. You, you point out eastern and western thinking have a very different set of precepts because of just the nature of each society. In, in the Bible, in Genesis, God proclaims, let us make man in our image after our like likeness and let them have dominion over the fishes, the foul, the cattle, et cetera. Eastern culture takes a whole lot more of a collectivist approach where you are part of a group, not you were made in God’s images. Tell us a little bit about how this schism developed and what is the relationship of, of chaos theory to each

00:13:03 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. So this is a speculative theory, but it’s a theory that suggests that the reason why eastern cultures have much more relational concepts of interconnectivity between humans and the rest of the world and human society as well is derived from the differences or proximity, rather, that humans have to primates, for example, in their own cultures. So there’s lots of monkey gods and so on. And there’s also of course lots of monkeys in many of these cultures that are developing. And the idea is that the hypothesis is that this meant that people could not avoid the commonality that we have with the rest of the world, right? Whereas if you think about like biblical societies, if you look at animals and you see camels, you think like, hey, you know, we, we are super different. We are separate from the rest of the world, right? So the argument is that over the long stretch of, of civilization that this created a slightly different mentality that when that then manifests in what’s called relational versus atomistic thinking, and western society is atomistic thinking on steroids, which is to say, you know, I mean the, the, the American dream is very
adamistic in individualist.

00:14:06 It’s like, you know, if you just want to succeed, then you have to do everything. Whereas the relational concepts are much more about the interconnections that people have. And so I think that also tells you how you think about society, right? Social change is either driven by individuals or it’s driven by systems. And I think that there is a way in which western culture, I think can learn to actually appreciate some of the complexity of social change more with a healthy increased dose of, of relational thinking.

00:14:32 [Speaker Changed] And, and you kind of bring the eastern and western philosophies together where you discuss the overview effect. And it really begins with the United States. Western society sends astronauts to the moon, sends astronauts around, around the earth. And these astronauts are chosen out of, often out of the military outta the air force. They’re pilots, they’re, they’re logical, they’re unfeeling, they’re supposed to be essentially soldiers. And yet all of them have this impact. When they see the blue-green earth in its entirety from space, they all describe it as being overwhelmed by a life shattering epiphany on the interconnection of everything. That doesn’t sound very western. That sounds more like an eastern philosophy. But this has been time and time again. Lots of astronauts have had this.

00:15:28 [Speaker Changed] Yeah, there’s, you know, it’s funny ’cause there’s been like 9,500 generations of, of modern humans and 9,497 of them have not seen the earth, right? Right. So when people do see the earth, they have this profound epiphany. And as you say, you know, they were worried about sending up, you know, philosophers and poets because they figured they’d be overwhelmed by this sort of existential awe and like, you know, would forget to hit the right buttons or whatever. So they pick these people who are supposed to be robots effectively in their personality. And all of them still have this incredible sort of epiphany about the interconnection of the world. ’cause you look at the single planet and you think, okay, this is one structure. It’s not, this is not something where I’m this distinct bit. You’re like, this is all together right now. I think what’s really striking about that is that those worldviews do shape your thinking around social change.

00:16:13 And I think when you start to think that you are in control rather than an agent of influence, you have a different worldview. When you start to think that you’re individual rather relational, you have a different worldview and all these things feed into the ways that we set up models that we sort of interact with our conceptions of social change and so on. And also the degree to which we have hubris that we can control things. And I think this is where the danger comes in, right? It’s not that you shouldn’t model, it’s not that you shouldn’t have abstractions of systems. It’s that when you start to get hubristic about it and think you have top-down individualist control, you start to get overconfident in ways that you try to tame something that I think is untamable. And this is where we get shocks more often because you try to impose this sort of control on a system that is so complex that it resists control. And so, you know, there’s some of these things where I think the, the insights, the philosophy behind this, it’s, it’s sort of lurking there invisibly where no one says this when they build a model, but it’s o it’s obviously shaping the way they think about it. And there’s sort of assumptions before they go into trying to determine how to navigate risk and uncertainty.

00:17:13 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. Along those lines, you, you have a great quote in the book. God may have created the clock, but it was Newton’s laws that kept it ticking. So, so how do you resolve that inherent tension between big forces driving things or random elements affecting it? Or, or is there no resolving them, they both matter?

00:17:38 [Speaker Changed] Yeah, so I think it’s a question of timescales. And I think one of the big, one of the big problems, and this is something that I, you know, it’s always, it’s, it’s such a nuanced concept that it’s sometimes difficult to explain. But I think there’s a really important point about whether ideas that happen for a long time seem to be validated by what goes on the patterns that we see, right? Whether you can actually falsify a theory when you’re talking about social change. So my favorite example of this is the Arab Spring in political science, my own realm. There is a lot of stuff written in sort of 2008, 2009, even into 2010 that says, here’s why Middle Eastern dictatorships are extremely resilient and there’s all this data showing this, the longevity, et cetera, et cetera. And then like within six months of some of these books coming out, you know, all of them are on fire.

00:18:21 I mean, I I I saw a political risk map when I was in grad school
where like every single country that was on fire was green on the political risk map from the previous year. Right? Now there’s two ways of thinking about that. The first way is to say the theory has been falsified. They were wrong, right? The second way of thinking about is, hold on, maybe the world changed, maybe the patterns of cause and effect have actually shifted, right? And I think this is something that people don’t appreciate that much, is they, they assume that the patterns of the past are going to be predictive of the patterns of the future. I mean, David Hume came up with this idea hundreds of years ago. But it is something that I think is particularly important for our world because the patterns of the past, Indic being indicative of the patterns of the future has never before been as flawed of an assumption because our world is changing faster than ever before.

00:19:05 So I think one of the issues that we have is when we think about these sort of clockwork models where we say, oh yes, you know, these are the ways that things have worked in the past. Our world is very, very different year to year. And that didn’t used to happen. I mean, I I, I was talking before about these, you know, 9,500 generations of humans, if you think about the sort of entirety of human history as a 24 hour day, 23 hours in like 10 minutes is hunter-gatherer period, right? And then you get into farming, which is another like 30 minutes, and then you’ve got, you know, a few minutes for the industrial revolution and you get to the information age, which we’re in now, which is like 11 seconds, right? In this, in this one day o clock. And I think the point that’s important here is that if we base almost all of our decision making and almost all of our models on causal inference from past patterns of behavior, but the world is changing year to year, then the assumptions we’re making are becoming more and more short-lived.

00:19:56 And I think that’s where we’re embedding risk into our thinking because we have no other way of inferring cause and effect other than past patterns. There’s no, there’s no alternative. That’s what Hume says. He’s like, this is the only way we can understand the world is to look at what happened in the past. We don’t, we can’t look into the future. So I think this is something that I, I do worry about when I see a lot of decision making built on this sort of mentality of the clockwork model that like, oh yes, well it’s just gonna keep ticking along. And, you know, there’s a lot of very smart thinkers who have thought about black swans and so on. I just think that we’ve made a system where the black swans are actually gonna be more frequent. I think we’ve designed a system that is more prone to systemic risks than before e

00:20:33 [Speaker Changed] Especially given, not only does information move fast than ever, but we are more interconnected, we’re more related, and it becomes increasingly difficult, if not impossible to figure out what are the unanticipated results, consequences, side effects of anything that we do.

00:20:53 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. And this is, you know, this is one of those things where I think there’s some, there’s some pretty good examples from history of when somebody tries to control a system that is uncontrollable and it backfires catastrophically. And my, my favorite example is, I shouldn’t say favorite is tra is horrible tragedy, but, but at the best illustration of this is Mao has this idea in, in communist China, he has this idea, he says, I’m, we’re gonna eradicate disease, and the way we’re gonna do this is massive four pests campaigns, so we’re gonna kill all these pests. So he, he basically tells everyone just go out and, you know, kill all these various things that potentially are vectors of disease. And what it ultimately does, it leads to one of the worst famines in human history because they’ve disrupted the ecosystem and they figure, oh, you know, as long as we just get rid of these pests, it’ll be fine.

00:21:35 What they actually have done is they’ve made it so the crops fail. And so, you know, this is the kind of stuff where I think it’s the, it’s the parable that that warns us of, you know, assuming that simply because we have either have had some success in the past or because our model seems to guide us in this way, that we can therefore insert ourselves into a system and not worry about the unintended consequences. I think that’s the kind of thing where, you know, a lot of the people who are the doomers in AI are talking about this. There are some things where, you know, when you have AI based decision making, it is, you know, the, the, the, the training data is the past. So there are some things that I think are, are getting worse in this front. And we are also, as you said, the interconnectivity.

00:22:14 I mean, one of my favorite examples of this is the sue has canal boat that the infamous sue has canal boat, right? I mean, you have a gust of wind that hits a boat and twists it sideways, it gets lodged in the canal. And the best estimate I’ve seen is that it created $54 billion of economic damage. And they said it was, you know, something like 0.2 to 0.4% of global GDP could have been wiped off by this, this one boat. Now the question is, is there ever another moment in human history where one boat could do that? Right. And I think the answer is quite clearly no. So the maybe the one that brought the plague, right? Right. But I mean, this is the kind of stuff where I think one of the, one of the lessons that I think is important is that there’s a trade-off very often between optimization and resilience. And I think, you know, we’re told all the time, efficiency and optimization are the, you know, they’re the guiding principles of so many of our systems. But they come at a cost, they do create less resilience. And I think there are some things where the long-term planning that we can do is to put a little bit more into resilience and a little bit less in optimization. It will cost us money in the short term, but it’ll probably save us a hell of a lot of money in the long term. Huh.

00:23:19 [Speaker Changed] Really, really interesting. So I found the book fascinating and I I really enjoyed where you, where you go down the evolutionary biology rabbit hole, starting with convergence is the, everything happens for a reason. School of evolutionary biology contingency is the, the G-rated version is stuff Happens theory. Explain the difference between the two.

00:23:45 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. So I, I think that evolutionary biology has a lot to teach us about understanding change. It’s a historical science and they’re trying to understand, you know, the origin story of species and they’re thinking about cause and effect just as people in economics and politics are as well. And so these two ideas, they’re, they’re very simple to understand with two examples. The first example of contingency is the asteroid that wipes out the dinosaurs. Right? Now, if this asteroid, which was by the way, was produced by an oscillation in a place called the ORT cloud in the distant reaches of space, right? The

00:24:14 [Speaker Changed] Absolute outer ring of assorted detritus that surrounds the entire solar system beyond Pluto.

00:24:22 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. So this, this oscillation flings this space rock towards earth, and it hits in the most destructive way possible. It, it, it hits in the ocean in a way that brings up a lot of toxic gas and effectively incinerates the dinosaur is because the, the surface temperature went up to about the same level as a broiled chicken. I mean, it was, it was deadly. Right? Now the reason this is important is because if it had hit a slightly different place on the earth, the dinosaurs probably wouldn’t have died out. And,

00:24:46 [Speaker Changed] And let me just point out, and and you mentioned this in the book, it’s not like if it hits a different continent five seconds earlier, five seconds later, it completely misses that sulfur rich if miss at the, in the Yucatan Peninsula.

00:25:02 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. So I mean, you know, this is, this is the kind of stuff where you, you think about it and it’s, it, it is very unsettling because you can imagine everything that humans have done, right? I mean, you have a second difference in this asteroid. There’s no humans because the, the extinction of the dinosaurs is what led to the rise of mammals and eventually the evolution of us. And so this is contingency, it’s where this small change could radically reshape the future. Now convergence is the alternative hypothesis, and they both exist, right? The this sort of order and disorder and convergence says, okay, yeah, there’s a lot of noise, there’s a lot of fluctuations and flukes, but eventually things that work win, right? So my favorite example of this is that if you look at, if you were to take out a human eye and you were to look at it and you were to compare it next to an octopus’s eye, they’re actually extremely similar.

00:25:48 Which is bizarre because there’s about 600 million years of separate evolutionary pathways for the, the two branches of life. And the reason this happened isn’t because, you know, we just got super lucky. It’s because evolution came up with a strategy by random experimentation that simply worked. It made the species navigate the world effectively long enough to survive to have offspring, which is the engine of evolution, right? So this is the kind of stuff where, yeah, there was like a lot of very profound differences. I mean, we do not look like octopus, thank goodness. But it’s something where as a result of that, the eye is basically the same. And so the, the question here I think is can we apply these frameworks to our own change, right? In our own societies? And so what I try to say is, okay, there’s some stuff that is ordered, there’s lots of regularity, there’s lots of patterns in our lives.

00:26:33 That’s the convergence stuff. At some point, you know, you go on the highway, there’s, there might be an accident sometimes, but like most of the time, you know, the cars drive around the same speed. They have space between them that’s about the same distance, right? And like, there’s, there’s all these patterns, but every so often there’s a car accident and that’s contingency, right? So this is the kind of stuff where what I say is that the way that social change happens and also our lives unfold is what I call contingent convergence. Not the most beautiful phrase, but it’s, I think very accurate in saying, okay, so there’s, there’s these contingencies that change the path you’re on. And then once you’re on that path, the sort of forces of order do constrain the outcomes that are possible. They say, look, this stuff’s gonna work, that stuff’s not gonna work. And the sort of survivor’s bias produces the stuff that does work. So I, I think this is a useful framework that I’m borrowing from evolutionary biology to help us better understand social change.

00:27:26 [Speaker Changed] So, so before I get to contingents convergence, I wanna stay with the difference between contingents, which is the meteor killing the dinosaurs and allowing them out. Mammals derive to rise and convergence. A couple of other examples that you give in the book of convergence crab, like bodies keep evolving time. And again, there are five separate instances that, that shapes somehow seems to provide a useful adaptive way to navigating the world.

00:28:00 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. So this is, I mean, this is one of those things where evolutionary biologists joke about that and they’re, they always say, you know, eventually we’re gonna have pincers like we’re, we’re all gonna end up as crabs because like evolution, if, you know, and some of them say if there, if there is a God, he really likes crabs. A and this,

00:28:12 [Speaker Changed] This is actually a, i I actually heard that about Beatles. Yeah. But there’s actually a word for this cartonization. Yeah. Is the process of evolving towards a crab like shape. Similarly flight, I never thought about this until I read it in the book flight evolved four separate times. It’s insects, it’s bats, it’s birds, and it’s OSAs. That, that’s amazing.

00:28:35 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. I mean this is the stuff where, you know, evolution is the, it’s a really powerful lesson of the value of undirected experimentation. Because every strange thing that we see around us, every, you know, organism, every plant, et cetera, is just the byproduct of this undirected experimentation, navigating uncertainty, right? I mean the, the world is changing all the time. There’s different concentrations of oxygen. They sometimes have to be in the ocean, sometimes have to be on land. And the, you know, this sort of diverse array of life is just undirected experimentation. But the thing is that these do, these, these forces do end up constraining the possibilities. Now, when we talk about cartonization is really interesting thing that I don’t go into much depth in the book, but it’s called the Burgess Shale up in Canada, in the Canadian Rockies. And it’s basically like this, this like fossilized museum of all these really wild body plans that used to exist hundreds of millions of years ago before a mass extinction event.

00:29:26 And what happened is they all got obliterated. So you can’t have any sort of convergence from those body plans ’cause they don’t exist anymore. Right? Whereas the ones that survived all of us are derived from them, right? So the contingency is like, okay, which body plans exist? Which, which sort of ways could you set up life, you know, with spines or not spines, whatever it is. And then once you have that contingent event where there’s the ex extinction within that, there’s this sort of constrained evolution that is, okay, well when this happens, the animal dies. So it doesn’t exist very long. And when this happens, the animal survives. So it does exist. And this is where cartonization, you know, you need to have a term because the crabs are very much survivors.

00:30:05 [Speaker Changed] And, and it turns out that unless you’re on the other side of the planet from where the, the meteor hit, if if you’re a borrower, if you get underground, you could survive that those fires in that heat and then come out and continue the evolutionary process.

00:30:21 [Speaker Changed] Yeah, I mean this is the thing I, I find this really fascinating to think about, but also unsettling is that, you know, all, all the life that exists now is basically offspring of either something that could dig when the asteroid hit or that lived in the ocean and that’s it, right? Because everything else died. Now, the really strange thing to think about as well is that, you know, I told the story about my, my great-grandfather’s first wife and then this, this murder and so on. But you keep tracing these things back, right? So my great-grandfather’s ancestors had to meet in just the right way. And their great grandfather, you know, they had to meet. But you go back then 6 million years this chimpanzee like creature had to meet another chimpanzee light creature. And the two of them mating is part of the story of human existence.

00:31:01 You go back further, you know, there’s a, a worm-like creature hundreds of millions of years ago, it dies. We probably don’t exist. Or my favorite example I think in the book is, and this is a, a finding from modern science about a year ago, was they found out that the reason why mammals don’t lay eggs, right? Why we, why we don’t have eggs and we instead have live births, is they believed based on genetic testing that a single shrew light creature got infected by a virus a hundred million years ago, which caused a mutation, which led to placenta and the rise of mammals. And you think of, I mean, to me that is just so utterly bizarre to imagine that our existence, like everything in humans, you know, ancient Rome, all this stuff, you know, Donald Trump, whatever, it’s, all of it is completely contingent on a shrew light creature a hundred million years ago, getting sick. You’re just like, when you think about this stuff, I think evolutionary biology tell, you know, they, they have encountered black swans throughout hundreds of millions of years. It’s basically the origin story of complex life. So,

00:31:54 [Speaker Changed] So let’s talk about one of those black swans and the specific concept of contingent convergence. I love the example you you use of the long-term evolution experiment using e coli 12 identical flasks of e coli and in separate, separate environment, separate but identical environments run 10 million years worth of human evolution through it. What’s the results of that?

00:32:25 [Speaker Changed] Yeah, this one, this one make, making e coli sexy in a book is, is pretty hard, I must say. But, but, but I think this, this is such a powerful lesson for change. So I, I had to include it. I flew out to Michigan State to meet with the people running the long-term evolution experiment. And the simple idea they had, the, the genius idea was they said, let’s see what happens if we take 12 identical populations of e coli. So they’re genetically identical, we put them in 12 flasks and we just evolve them for decades. Right. And because e coli life cycles are so short, it’s basically the equivalent of millions of years of human evolution. Like

00:32:57 [Speaker Changed] Multiple lifespans a day. Exactly. Generations per
day. Exactly.

00:33:00 [Speaker Changed] So it’s like, it’s the equivalent of a, if you went through like great, great, great grandparents each day, right now, the beauty of this experiment is they controlled everything. So there’s nothing in these flasks except for a glucose and citrate mix. Because the glucose is food for the e coli and the citrate is like a stabilizer. Okay? Now what happens is they figure, okay, let’s test contingency or convergence. And for like the first 15 years or so of the experiment, the lesson was, okay, it’s, it’s convergence because all 12 of the lines were evolving in slightly different ways. There’s noise, right? There’s little differences. The genome is not the same, but they’re basically all getting fitter at eating glucose. So they’re, they’re, they’re getting better at surviving. And then one day a researcher comes in and one of the flasks is cloudy. And this is not supposed to be the way it is. It looks like a little bit of milk has been dropped into it instead of this really clear substance that the rest of the other 11 are. So they sort of think, oh, this is a, a mistake. And they throw it out, they restart. ’cause they, they froze the e coli so they can restart

00:33:57 [Speaker Changed] It. They freeze it like every, the equivalent of every 500 years. Yeah. Five. So,

00:34:01 [Speaker Changed] So

00:34:01 [Speaker Changed] They could reset the clock anytime they want. Exactly. Or 12 flask.

00:34:05 [Speaker Changed] Yes. So they’re all frozen, they all have this sort of fossil record. They can restart it at any point. So they restart the experiment in this flask just backing up a little bit. And about two weeks later, I think it is or something like that, they, the, the flask turns cloudy again and they’re like, okay, this was not an accident. There’s something going on here. So they actually pay to sequence the genome very expensive at the time, a lot cheaper today. But they paid it, paid to sequence it. And the amazing finding, this is the thing, when I, I read this, I was like, this is a central way of capturing my idea is that when they looked at the genome, there were four totally random mutations that did not matter at all for the survivability of the e coli that proceeded in just the right chain.

00:34:44 That when the fifth mutation happened, all of the sudden that population could now eat the citrate, which was not supposed to happen, right? It was supposed to only eat the glucose. The citrate was there as a stabilizer. But as a result of this, they became way more fit, way more survivable than the other populations because they could eat something the others couldn’t. Right. And what happened then is that since then, and this has now been going on for 20 plus years or so since then, the citrate population has an advantage over all of the other 11. And none of the others have developed that mutation because it’s sort of like a house of cards. You had to have these exact four accidents in exactly the right order. If they’d reach, if they changed the order, it wouldn’t have happened. And then they had to finally, on top of that four, those four accidents, they had to have the fifth accident, which gives them the ability to eat citrate.

00:35:29 And so this is the idea of contingent convergence, right? It’s like for that population that evolved, the ability to eat citrate, that one mutation has changed everything forever. It will never go back to eating glucose the same way as the others. But for the others that didn’t develop that change, they are all still evolving in relatively predictable ways. So, you know, I think this is the, the, the capturing of the, of the sort of paradox of, of our lives is that we, we exist somewhere between order and disorder. Complete disorder would destroy humans, right? We couldn’t exist and we, our societies couldn’t function. Complete order also wouldn’t work because there’d be no change, there’d be no innovation and so on. And so I think this is where contingent convergence really, really shines. But I will admit that trying to do a soundbite version of the long term evolution experiment is something that in writing the book was probably the greatest challenge of making something about bacteria. Interesting. But,

00:36:18 [Speaker Changed] But it’s really fascinating. ’cause if you stop and think about that, first of all, the genius of doing this over 20 years when you have no idea what the outcome is, and hey, maybe we’re wasting our, our lives and our career doing this, number one. But number two, you come out and you see that it’s cloudy. Is it, I’m assuming it’s cloudy. ’cause they’re reproducing in greater numbers, they’re processing the citrate. A whole bunch of different stuff is going on than the other 11 environments. And one has to imagine that if this wasn’t taking place in an experiment, but this was a big natural scenario, the citrate consuming e coli would eventually take over the population. ’cause Yeah, they have twice as much food available or, or more than just the plain old glucose eating e coli.

00:37:08 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. And this is, I mean, when I was talking to, so one of the, one of the researchers named Richard Linsky, the other one, Zach Blot, and I was talking to ’em about this and, and they said, look, we tried to control everything. We tried to control every single, you know, you pipette the exact same amount of, of solution into the, you know, into the beakers each day and so on. But what they said was that, you know, well what if one day, you know, when we were washing the flask, just a tiny microscopic amount of soap stayed on there. Right? Right. That could affect the evolution. And so there’s no, I mean, even, even in this experiment, there’s contingency they couldn’t control, which is, I mean, it’s the most controlled evolutionary experiment that’s ever been done. But it’s still like, you know, these little tiny bits, if you just have, you know, a, a microscopic bit of soap, well that’s gonna kill some of the bacteria.

00:37:50 And then the evolutionary pathway is going to be slightly changed. And I think this is the stuff where, you know, had they been a different researcher, had a grant run out, they might’ve just said, okay, we’ve solved it, it’s all convergence because they could have shut down the experiment after 15 years. So there’s just all these things that are like layered on top of each other. And I think, you know, a lot of scientists, especially in the world of evolutionary biology, understand that this is something that we, we, we really have to take seriously. And I think the way that we are set up in human society is to ignore the contingency. Because those are not useful things to think about. They’re the, they’re the noise, they’re the aberrations, they’re the outliers. You know, you delete them from the data, whatever. And I think this is the kind of stuff where the lesson here is that those are actually central to the question of how change happens.

00:38:34 [Speaker Changed] I love this quote from the book. I began to wonder whether the history of humanity is just an endless but futile struggle to impose order certainty and rationality onto a world defined by disorder chance and chaos.

00:38:50 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. I mean, I think this is where I became a, a bit of a disillusioned social scientist, to be honest, was that i, I, I think that the way that I was taught to present change to people was to come up with a really elegant model, you know, a really beautiful equation. And that has statistical significance and has like the smallest number of variables possible to explain the entire world. Right? And the reason that I ended up, you know, having that mentality that I think we’re trying to cram complexity into these neat and tidy sort of straight jack models is because my PhD dissertation and so on, I was looking at the origin story of coups and civil wars. That was part of my research. And these are black swan events. I mean, you know, there’s only a few coup attempts that happen every year.

00:39:32 And they’re so hard to predict. I mean, because, you know, one of the, one of the coup plots that I studied was where this guy, you know, who’s a sort of mid-level officer in the army, just on a whim, decides to try to overthrow the government. And he’s got like 50 guys in his command. This is in 1997 in Zambia, right? And, you know, his plan is to kidnap the army commander and force the army commander to announce the coup on the radio. It’s not a stupid plan, it’s actually, it probably would’ve worked. But the, the group of soldiers that were dispatched to the, the house I, I interviewed some of them when I went to Zambia and they, they said, look, you know, we ran in the army commander’s in his pajamas, he runs out the back ’cause he sees these soldiers coming to kidnap him and he climbs up the compound wall.

00:40:13 And you know, it’s like in a film where like they grab his pant leg, he’s pulling up, they’re pulling down and they just, he slips through their fingers and he then goes to the government HQ and announces that there’s a coup under coup plot underway. And so the soldiers go to the radio station, they, they capture the coup ringleader who’s at this point literally hiding in a trash can. Okay? Three hours after the coup plot has been been hashed. Now, the problem is, I was reading all this stuff about like zambia’s democracy, and it was, oh, Zambia is a resilient democracy. It’s one of the beacons of African democracy in the 1990s. And I’m trying to reconcile this with the fact that in my own research I’m finding this story where the soldier says like, yeah, I think if I was like one second faster, I probably would’ve gotten the, the, the, the government overthrown.

00:40:55 And on top of this, the other contingency was they didn’t chase him. And I said, why didn’t you chase him? He said, well, the army commander’s wife was really attractive and we wanted to talk to her. And also we opened the fridge and there’s Namibian import beer in the fridge, and we hadn’t had Namibian beer for a long time. So we said, you know, screw this, we’re gonna, we’re gonna drink some beer and talk to the wife. And I’m thinking, you know, like, like how do I put this in my model? Like, you know, I mean like, like what is my quantitative analysis going to show me about this? And I think that’s the stuff where those little pivot points and, and studying really rare events that are highly consequential makes you think differently about the nature of social change. And I would go to these like, political science conferences and I was just like, I don’t, I don’t believe this is how the world works. I think there, there are times where these can be useful models, but I don’t think we’re capturing reality accurately. And that’s where, you know, some of the origin story professionally of the book comes from you.

00:41:46 [Speaker Changed] You have to build in attractive women and imported beer Exactly. Into your models or, or more accurately just completely random events. There. There’s a, a research note in the book from an evolutionary biologist, 78% of new species were triggered by a single event, typically a random mistake or genetic error.

00:42:10 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. My fav my favorite example of this is something called the bottleneck effect. And it’s actually, I think it’s actually an important idea for economics as well. So I’ll start with the, the biology, the, the bottleneck is where a population arbitrarily gets reduced to a very small number. And the number of people in that population could be, you know, it could be 10, it could be a hundred, whatever it is, but who those 10 or a hundred people are really, really matters. So there’s, there’s, there’s one island for example, where half the population has asthma because it was populated initially by this bottleneck of a very small number of people who disproportionately had more asthma than the rest of the population. There’s elephant seals, for example, who got whittled down through hunting and so on to something like, I think it’s 50 breeding pairs or something like that.

00:42:52 But which exact seals lived or died completely changed the trajectory of that species. Now I, I sort of say this because human society has had bottlenecks at, at various times, we don’t know exactly how small they’ve been. But the, the hypothesis is perhaps that it may have been as few as a, a few thousand humans at one point, and which humans were in that group that determined everything for who’s alive now, right? Sure. So if you swap out, you know, one person for a different person, you, you’ve changed the trajectory of the species. Now I think this is also true when you think about economics, you think about innovation every so often shocks go through industries and they whittle down the competition. And who survives in that moment is potentially somewhat arbitrary. It could be based on some pressures, it could be a smart CEO, whatever it is. But the, the sort of survivors in that bottleneck then will dictate how the industry might unfold in the future. I mean, you know, apple has this outsized effect on the tech industry, but you know, maybe the timing’s a little bit different and Apple dies. I mean, it’s not implausible,

00:43:49 [Speaker Changed] Hey, but for Microsoft giving them a loan in, what was it, 98? Yep. They, but for the antitrust case, which gave Microsoft an incentive to have another survivable operating system, who knows.

00:44:01 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. And so this, you know, when you think about, I think bottlenecks are, are, are a useful way of thinking about this, partly because they affect trajectories very, very profoundly, but also because they, they can be arbitrary. And I think this is something where what we do in human society is we write history backwards. So we, we look at who is successful and we say, I mean hindsight bias, you know, many people I’m sure have talked to you about this, but it’s, it’s very important to, to underline that. Like when these arbitrary things happen, if you then infer a causality that’s a, a neat and tidy story, you actually are learning exactly the wrong lesson. I mean, the, the reason these particular elephant seals survived is probably arbitrary. It just happened to depend on who the people who were poaching them, you know, happened to stumble upon.

00:44:43 And then, and then of course the evolutionary history of that animal is completely changed. So I think that that, that lesson is that, you know, sometimes when bottlenecks happen, it reshapes the trajectory of the future, but it also is inescapably arbitrary at times. And we don’t like that. I mean, the entire world of self-help and the entire world of sort of business advice is, oh, these people were successful. Here’s how you replicate it. And the replication is always just do what they did. Right? But I mean, of course the world’s different now. I mean, if you do what they did, you’re just making something that’s not truly innovative.

00:45:13 [Speaker Changed] Right. You can’t invent an iPhone today. Exactly.

00:45:16 [Speaker Changed] So

00:45:16 [Speaker Changed] Yeah, so it, it, it’s fascinating when, when you talk about bottlenecks, I read a book some years ago called Last Ape Standing, and it talks about all the various proto human species from Chm Magnum to Neanderthal to, to homo sapiens. And the theory is that in the last ice age, maybe it’s 20 or 40,000 years ago, we were down to a few thousand humans. And but for the ice age ending, when it did another year, we, again, we may not be having this conversation, there may be no humans around.

00:45:55 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. I mean this is the, this is the stuff also where I think that the, the sort of predictable patterns that people try to impose on the world are, are also subject to whims of timing. Right. And, and your example is completely apt and I think it’s a very important one. And I think it also
speaks to the question when you say, when the ice age ends, right? The timing issue is so important. Now, one of my, you know, examples of this that I think is so fascinating is you think about like our daily lives and our daily lives are, you know, basically set up in, in groups of seven, okay, we got a seven day week, why is that? So I start looking into this and effectively what happens is there’s this period in Ancient Rome where they have this superstition that says the planets are really important to, for being, you know, auspicious and so on.

00:46:40 And they can see because they don’t have telescopes, five planets with a naked eye and the sun and the moon, you add them up, that’s seven. They set up a seven day week because of that. That’s why we divide our lives in seven. And it’s because of this lock. This, this, this thing that I also talk about in Fluke, which is this concept of lock-in where an arbitrary thing can happen. And then sometimes it persists and sometimes it doesn’t. And that’s often very random. So my other example of this is everything that we write, everything that we say is derived from English being locked in when the printing press was invented, right? If the printing press had been invented, you know, six decades earlier, six decades later, there’d be a different language because the language was in flux. And all of a sudden it became really important to have a standardized system.

00:47:19 So a lot of people used to write the word had H-A-D-D-E. Now that was expensive because they figured, okay, we’ve gotta type set this with a bunch of letters. Why don’t we just do HAD and I’ll boom. All of a sudden the language changes, right? So there’s a, a series of things that happen really, really quickly, but they basically produce modern English. And so I think this sort of concept of the arbitrary experimentation and, you know, superstition of the Romans, and then it getting locked in and the empire sort of sets it up and then it spreads and all that. And then you think, okay, why do we have a five day working way? I mean, it’s partly tied to, you know, the, the superstition about the auspicious nature of the visible planets, which themselves are an arbitrary byproduct of how our eyes evolved. So, I mean, it’s just sort of a, everything you think about has got these sort of tentacles where they could have been slightly different, and then our lives would be radically changed.

00:48:04 [Speaker Changed] One of the things that’s so fascinating with us as narrative storytellers, right? We think about, okay, we’ve had the spoken language for tens of thousands of years, maybe a hundred thousand years, and we think about Thefor and the written language going back to the Egyptians and the Greeks, but that’s history. Mm. And 99% of the people who lived during that period were illiterate. Yep. In fact, species wide literacy, which we arguably still don’t have, but are, are closer to this is like a century old, like for a hundred years people could read and write and meaning most people, but go back beyond a century. And the vast majority of people either couldn’t read, couldn’t write, never went to school, they had to get up and farm, work the land. They didn’t have time to mess around with this silly stuff.

00:49:01 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. You know, I, I I think there’s a lot of things where we are blinded to the fact that we have lives that are unlike any humans who have come before us. Right. And I think there’s some really big superstructure events that are related to this that, that really do affect our lives. So my, my favorite way of thinking about this is that I think that every human who came before the modern period, most, you know, at least, you know, maybe the last 200 years or so, what they experienced was uncertainty in their day-to-day life. There was almost no regularity, no patterns in their day-to-day life. They didn’t know where their next meal would come from. They didn’t know, you know, whether they would get eaten by an animal, et cetera. The crops might fail, you know, et cetera. But they had what, what I call global stability, which is to say like the, the parents and the children lived in the same kind of world. You’re a hunter gatherer your kid’s a hunter gatherer, you know, and, and this means that the parents teach the kids how to use technology. There’s basically regularity from generation to generation

00:49:50 [Speaker Changed] For thousands of years. Yeah.

00:49:52 [Speaker Changed] We have flipped that. Right. So what we have is local stability and global instability. So we have extreme regularity like no human has ever experienced before, where we can know to almost the minute when something we order off the internet is going to arrive at our house. Right. And we go to Starbucks anywhere in the world, and we can have the same drink, and it’s gonna taste basically the same thing. And we’re really angry if somebody messes up, you know, an order because that, that, that expectation of regularity is so high. But we have global instability. I mean, you know, I grew up in a world where the internet didn’t exist really for ordinary people. And now it’s impossible to live without it. You know, you think about the ways that children teach parents how to, to use technology that’s never been possible before. Right.

00:50:29 And on top of this, you have this sort of ai, you know, rise where the world’s going to profoundly change in a very short period of time. There has never been a, a, a, a, a generation of our species where not just the global dynamics have changed generation to generation, but within generations. I mean, we’re going to live in a world where, you know, the way that we understand and navigate systems and, and our lives is going to change multiple times in one lifetime. And you think about, you know, hunter gathers that the, the average human generation is about 26.9 years in the long stretch of our species. You can go 27 years over and over and over. It’s pretty much the same world for pretty much the entirety of our species until I would say the last, you know, maybe a hundred years or so. And that’s the thing, you know, I, you, you think about this, the, the more you think about this, the more of these examples you find. I mean, one of them is, you know, jet lag. I flew in from London and there’s been three generations of people who could ever move fast enough to knock out their biology in a way that they have jet legs. So, I mean, there’s just a million things that we experience as routine that no humans before us have ever been able

00:51:33 [Speaker Changed] To experience. Right. You could, you could never outrun your circadian rhythm Exactly. Until you could travel at a few hundred miles an hour and go from, from country to country change. You couldn’t even change time zones. Yeah. Until, what is it, 75 years ago?

00:51:48 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. I mean, there’s, there’s an amazing map. I I, I don’t know the exact name of it. I think it’s an, it’s an iso chrome map or something like that. But it’s a, it’s a map of London from a hundred plus years ago, and it’s showing the world based on how long it takes you to get anywhere. And you see that like western Europe is, you know, the, the closest, and it’s like five plus days or whatever right now. Somebody made a a, a renewed version of that map a couple years ago, and the furthest reach you can go is like 36 plus hours. Whereas in the old map, it was like three plus months. And you know, that’s the stuff as well where we, we just, we’ve sped up the world so much, and I think this has embedded a lot of the dynamics where flukes and sort of chance events become more common.

00:52:29 [Speaker Changed] Th 36 hours, I, I I think you get to the moon in 36 hours.

00:52:32 [Speaker Changed] Right? I mean, it’s true.

00:52:33 [Speaker Changed] That’s how much it’s changed. Yeah. So let’s, let’s play a little bit of a game called convergence or contingency. We, we talked before about sometimes, hey, multiple evolutionary paths lead to flight in very different ways, and sometimes it’s just a random meteor wiping out the dinosaurs. So one’s convergence, the other is contingency. And and since you’re in from London, Brexit, was that a function of random elements or was that a convergence that was a long time in the making?

00:53:06 [Speaker Changed] Well, like, like most things is both. I mean, I think there are factors around the Brexit vote that could have very clearly gone the other way. I mean, there, there are, the timing of the vote could have been different. The ways that the polls were presented could have been different. And also I think some of the dynamics of how the EU behaved could have been slightly different. So I mean, yeah, anytime you have a close outcome, it, it produces, you know, I think contingency where it could have, it could have gone the other way. But there are trends as well, right? I mean, there’s, these are the things where I, I’m, even though I believe that flukes change the world profoundly regularly, I also completely accept the idea that there are sort of long-term forces that yield something like Brexit. And there was a long sort of bubbling antagonism to immigration levels and anger at Brussels and all these sorts of things which politicians capitalized on and, and leads to Brexit.

00:53:57 I mean, I think one of the things that would be interesting about this, and the, perhaps the biggest convergence is the conversation which David Cameron decided to hold the referendum. That would be the biggest conver contingency for me, because he thought at, at least as it been reported, he thought that he was going to put to bed the challenge from the right in the conservative party by, by holding the referendum that he would win, and that he would have to stop dealing with questions about Brexit. And of course, it backfired on him. He, he didn’t really believe in Brexit, but he figured this was a political ploy that would, you know, basically cut off the pivot to the right. So that’s one of those things where, you know, if a different set of people have been in the room with Cameron, then maybe they don’t hold the referendum. And then that’s a very different world we live in. Huh.

00:54:38 [Speaker Changed] So, so you’re over in the UK looking at the United States as a political science, the election of Donald Trump in 2016 by 40 or 50,000 votes in a handful of swing states. Fascinating question. Was that a, a random contingency, or was the convergence and the arc of history moving towards a populist in the United States?

00:55:04 [Speaker Changed] Yes. So there, there’s, there’s sort of precursor factors that Trump tacked into. And this is the convergence, right? This is the stuff that’s the trends. I do think there’s some pretty big contingencies around Trump. I mean, there’s, there’s one hypothesis, which I, you know, I can’t, I I don’t know Donald Trump’s thinking, but I, there’s speculation by people who are close to him that the moment he decided he would definitely run for the 2016 race was in 2011 when there was the White House correspondence dinner. S

00:55:26 [Speaker Changed] He was

00:55:27 [Speaker Changed] Seth Myers. Exactly. And he was publicly humiliated by Barack Obama with a joke that basically said something to the effect of, I really sympathize with you, Donald, because I couldn’t handle the hard choices that you have to make on celebrity apprentice. Whereas I, you know, have to make the easy choices in the situation room. And everyone’s sort of laughing at Donald Trump and and so on. And the question is, you know, if the joke writer had not come up with that idea, or Obama said, ah, let’s just, let’s just, can that joke Right? Does Trump run, I mean, that, that’s question one. Then there’s the questions around the election, right? And this is something where, you know, without going into too much detail, the reopening of the FBI investigation, which happens because of a congressman in New York and his inability to sort of control himself, right. You know, that

00:56:07 [Speaker Changed] Send sending naked yes. Genital pictures to underage women.

00:56:11 [Speaker Changed] Thank you for saying it for me. So there’s a, you know, this is the thing where this causes the reopening, the FBI investigation. Did this cause a shift in votes in those three critical states? I don’t know. Could but possibly Right? Could, could be. And on top of that, you have, one of my things that I do talk about in the book, I have a chapter on called The Lottery of Earth. And this is the strangest example of US politics with a fluke around the time of the dinosaurs, there was an ancient inland sea in America, and it basically had a coastline that would, if you were going to chart it today, it would be like a little crescent shape, a sort of swoop across Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. Now what happens is, on the coastline, there’s these phytoplankton that live in this shallow sea, and when they die, their bodies eventually get turned into these really, really rich soils when the sea ends.

00:56:54 Now, I promise this makes sense for how it links to Trump. This produces extremely fertile soil and what’s called the black belt. And when slavery was developed, the plantations are, you can map them exactly where the ancient inland sea was. That’s where they go. So this means that there’s all these enslaved people brought to the southern United States according to this ancient coastline. And a lot of the people who were freed then settled there. And so the demographics of those counties are overwhelmingly African American. And when you look at the election results for the 2020 election, where Georgia becomes this pivotal state, and also is the reason why the Democrats hold onto the Senate, if you map the county level election results, you will see the swoop of the ancient and Nancy, huh. And it’s exactly where the Democrats carried the state, because it’s where the black population, which is disproportionately likely to vote for Democrats lives. And so, you know, this is the kind of stuff where, of course this is the long stretch of history, but it’s something where I think we don’t think about geological or geographical forces, and they do affect our politics. It’s just that we’re completely oblivious to them, and they’re not that changing from election to election. So we’re not fixating them for punditry.

00:58:00 [Speaker Changed] So, so your book forced me as, as I was prepping for this to go back in time and rethink what’s contingent, what’s convergent. And as I was prepping this, I’m gonna ask you about January 6th and Ukraine and Gaza, but before I get to those questions, I wanna stay with Trump in 2016 and Trump in 2020. As I was reading your, your language about the long fabric of threads in history, the conversation unrelated had had talked about Iraq in 2003. And as I’m plowing through the book, it sort of dawns on me the changes that are put into place under the Bush administration with Dick Cheney after nine 11, which essentially comes out of Afghanistan, Iraq had nothing to do with this. The idea that we are gonna use this to invade a country that’s not related to nine 11, and just the jup weapons and mass destruction and all the evidence that turned out to be no evidence at all, that was a, at the time felt like a radical change, that the government was not just lying to us about little things we weren’t paying attention to.

00:59:19 They were like clearly not telling the truth, which most of us either didn’t believe or didn’t wanna believe at the time. Of course, there’s gotta be some reason to invade a country. The government’s not just gonna make that up. And I’m wondering if that, is that a contingent, is that a, a convergence? Because following the Bush Cheney administration, Donald Trump was kind of radical. But for that, I think if, if the Iraq war doesn’t happen, and if the presentation by Colin Powell at the UN doesn’t happen, and the whole thing turns out to be BS afterwards, I think that kind of made people a little cynical and Trump was a modest step from that. Whereas if that doesn’t happen, Trump is a radical leap from that. Yeah.

01:00:08 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. So the Iraq war is a great example of this, because I would go back even further to the first Gulf War as the, as 90, 90, 91. Yes, exactly. The first bush, yes. And I think this is, I think this is an important part of the story that leads to Bush Jr. Going into, into Iraq in 2003. So when, when Saddam Hussein was thinking about invading Kuwait in the early 1990s, the US government wanted to tell him that if they, if if he, if he did this, they would attack him. But there were two messages sent through diplomatic channels. One was called the Gillespie memo, and the other one was a sort of official communicate. And one of them was a little bit more lenient than than the other. It sort of sounded like we, we will dis we’ll disapprove of this, but you know, we won’t attack you.

01:00:48 That was the sort of subtext of it. Whereas the other one was like, we will attack you. And what happened was, because there were these two signals, Saddam Hussein picked the one that he thought was correct, and the one that he thought was correct was they’re not gonna do anything. So when you look at the, the, the reason why he invades and then gets wiped out, I mean, you can look at the casualty numbers, it’s like so ridiculously, it’s probably the most lopsided conflict in modern history. Right, right. This origin story goes back to a misinterpretation of two conflicting signals that the US government basically miscalculated. He miscalculated based on, on misinterpretation of a diplomatic signal. If that doesn’t happen, you know, then you don’t have the bush connection to, to Iraq. You know, there’s all these questions of what will happen now. I think there’s, there’s a bigger point that I wanted to get into here, which I think is, is where I think about this differently from some other people.

01:01:35 And I realized this when I was talking about the book. So I told a historian friend of mine, the story of Kyoto, right? And how Kyoto doesn’t get blown up in the atomic bomb from this vacation. And he says, okay, but hold on, like the US is still gonna win the war. Right? Like, it, like, I mean, at the end of the day, if they drop the bomb in Kyoto, they would drop the bomb in Hiroshima. They’re still gonna win the war. I’m like, yes, that’s true. The problem I think we make when we think about these things is we impose categories that don’t really exist because there’s a binary of whether you win the war or not. Right? But the question is, does Japan develop in the same way if you swap out Kyoto for Hiroshima? I don’t think so. Right. There’s totally different people who live and die.

01:02:10 And also one of the people who’s one of the founding, you know, scientists of, of modern meteorology was in Kyoto. So like, he would’ve probably died. And this is a lot, lot of the stuff that ends up helping us basically detect major storms. So you think there’s, I mean, even that’s just a small ripple effect that we can imagine that, okay, maybe meteorology goes a little bit differently. So I, you know, what I think about with some of this stuff is like, you know, do we end up invading Iraq or not? Maybe we still do. Maybe that’s the convergence. Maybe there’s still a war, but the way it happens matters. And I think, you know, the way the, the conflict unfolds, the way that the losses accrue, the way that, you know, the way the US had relationships with Osama bin Laden when he was a, you know, a fighter in Afghanistan, the 1980, I mean, right?

01:02:50 All this stuff matters. And I think the thing that we tend to do is we tend to just say, well, it would’ve been the same because our, in our category, which is a fake construction of the way we think about the world, it’s the same binary outcome, right? When you win the war, you don’t, but the way you win the war actually affects the future. And so that’s the kind of stuff I think, I’m sure that people in business understand this as well, where it’s like, you know, the way that a product launches, yeah, it’s a success. But if it’s 5% more of a success that might affect the way that you behave in your future investments, and then that’s going to have ripple effects in the future.

01:03:21 [Speaker Changed] The, the way you win the war or not is the theme of Amma’s book lords of Finance. The conditions that were imposed after World War I Yep. Pretty directly leads to Germany and World War ii. But for those very stringent conditions that lead to Germany being broken, and then the rise of the hyperinflation and the Weimar Republic, that was a series of choices. And he very brilliantly tells the story of this was absolutely not convergent. It didn’t have to happen that way.

01:03:55 [Speaker Changed] Well, the, the, the story that is famous about World War I is how Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s car breaks down right in front of the assassin who kills him. It’s a complete accident. Right? I actually found a different contingency that I think is even more bewildering, which is that Franz Ferdinand, the Archduke goes to England about, I think several months before he’s actually killed in Sarajevo. And he ends up on a hunting expedition at this place called Welbeck Abbey. And the person who’s loading the shotguns slips because there’s just been a snowstorm, and the gun goes off and a bullet goes right over the shoulder of the archduke and misses him by like three inches. And you think to yourself, okay, so if this guy slips in a slightly different way and hits him in the head, right? And the trigger event of World War I is instead dead already in well back, Abbey, does World War I happen Now, this is a debate that historians really can’t answer.

01:04:44 And there’s lots of people on both sides of the argument. And I think the, the, the point is maybe world war I still happens, but if it’s not triggered by this assassination, the way the war is ha is going to unfold, is going to be different. Does it lead to Nazi Germany the same way? I mean, these are the things where I think what we do is we just pretend that these things don’t matter that much because it’s so overwhelming. I mean, if the idea that somebody slipping is the response, you know, is, is sort of the proximate cause of millions of deaths and then the rise of Nazism. I mean, this is the kind of stuff where it’s just so overwhelming that you can’t, it’s

01:05:14 [Speaker Changed] Mind blowing. Yeah. So, so let me throw some more, again, your political science. Yeah. Let’s talk about some, some recent political actions that are kind of fascinating and ask the question, is this convergence or contingency the Russian invasion of Ukraine?

01:05:30 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. You know, I think this is, it’s, you know, there’re always both, but the, the convergence of this is the sort of longstanding humiliation of Russia that Vladimir Putin has a very big chip on his shoulder about, you know, sort of the, the fact that he has this predisposition to view Russia as a major global power because he was in the KGB and so on, you know, that I think is a long- term trend. And like Trump, sorry, Putin was always very, very keen on reestablishing Russian dominance. But I think there was some stuff where there was some serious miscalculations going on, and, and this is where these contingencies, I think could have cropped up. So I wrote a piece for the Atlantic in 2022, right after the, the invasion happened where it was like, look, what happens with dictators is they, they purge all the people who challenge them and tell them the truth.

01:06:15 [Speaker Changed] Nothing but yes men.

01:06:16 [Speaker Changed] Exactly. And this happens over decades. So the fact that Putin stayed in power for so long, he probably got some really bad information that told him, look, it’s gonna be three day war. And then he miscalculates based on this. And I think’s, well, look,

01:06:27 [Speaker Changed] Look back at the annexation of Crimea. Yeah. That
kind of was a three day

01:06:31 [Speaker Changed] Walk. Exactly. And this is, this is where I think the, the, the aspects of contingency are tied to the personality traits of leaders sometimes. And if you have a different Russian president, maybe he doesn’t do the same thing. Right. And I think this is the kind of stuff where political science, you know, this is a little bit of inside baseball, but political science is obsessed with institutions. We, we try to explain through, through institutions. And there was a longstanding viewpoint, and this speaks to, you know, January 6th and Trump and all these other things that the institution of the president matters, not the president themselves. And I think Trump obliterated this mentality. Putin also obliterates this mentality. Nobody thinks the world would be the same if Hillary Clinton had won in 2016. Right.

01:07:07 [Speaker Changed] Clearly very different. And you could say the same thing about Bush versus Gore completely. I think the world, it, it feels like we took a different track following the 2000 election as well. Yeah.

01:07:17 [Speaker Changed] And I think this is where we make the mistake. I mean, contingency is obviously amplified for people in power. Hierarchies make contingency more, more influential and, and on a shorter timescales, but everyone is affecting the world in some way, right? I mean, like, we all have, as I say, we control nothing but influence everything. I mean that for ordinary people.

01:07:33 [Speaker Changed] Say that again, we control nothing but influence everything.

01:07:36 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. And I think that what, what this means is that we cannot control anything. There’s nothing that we have absolute control over. But everything that we do has ripple effects. Every single action we make has ripple effects. The question is on what timescale are those important, and how much are they affecting people around the world? So when Joe Biden does something, the contingency of that is highly probable that it will affect lots and lots of people. Whereas if you’re somebody who’s a hermit living in the forest, it’s not going to affect that many people right away. Is it going to affect nobody? No. Because if you, if that hermit went and met somebody else, they would have a baby, and that baby might, you know, rise up to, you know, change the world and so on. Who knows? So I think, you know, the idea is that everyone is influencing the future all the time. The question is just on what timescale and how many people will be affected in a way that we think is consequential.

01:08:21 [Speaker Changed] So, so you mentioned January 6th, that feels more like it’s a contingency, but you are implying a lot of these things are convergent and might have happened given all the events that took place beforehand.

01:08:35 [Speaker Changed] Yeah, so I think the build up to January 6th was, I think in relatively predictable. I wrote a column actually about six months before it where I said, look, I think there’s going to be violence between the election and the inauguration. Significant political violence between the election and the inauguration. And it wasn’t like a, it wasn’t something that was completely outta left field. It was possible that these forces were, were amassing. You know, I think the contingency is there, there were a few of the people in the, in the group that took over the capitol that had zip ties. Right? And were trying to kidnap politicians, right.

01:09:03 [Speaker Changed] Hang like Pence. Yeah.

01:09:04 [Speaker Changed] And, you know, there, there are videos you can see in that in the, in the CCTV where they were close. And, you know, how does, how does American politics unfold if somebody actually gets killed in that? I mean, there’s, there’s a lot of things where, you know, they, they kill a senior politician or something. I mean, that’s gonna change the dynamics of the country. I think that if they had had a, you know, if the, if the outcome of January 6th had been worse in that regard, if there had been a senior politician murdered by somebody in the, in the, in the, the, the group, you know, that would’ve been harder for Trump to recover from politically. I think

01:09:35 [Speaker Changed] I, I was surprised how quickly he recovered. I was too, from what looked like, you know, from my perspective, the game theory was, yeah, hey, I’m a conservative Republican and I am against abortion and in favor of tax cuts. I got everything I want from Trump. Let’s throw him under the bus and move on. We could retake our party. I was shocked that, that a principle didn’t permeate the Republican. Right. ’cause it looked like in real time, Hey, you guys don’t need this guy anymore. He just did you a huge favor.

01:10:09 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. Well, and this is also where, you know, the dynamics of contingency play into this in a huge way because part of the anger that I think exists on the political right is the backlash to policies during the pandemic and some of the information that that, that people in the Republican party share about the pandemic and so on. And that is a single person in China getting infected by a mutation of a virus. Right. You know what I mean? Right. So like, you know, you think about the 2020 race, I mean, it is affected profoundly by one person getting sick. Right.

01:10:36 [Speaker Changed] My, my argument has long been that, but for the mishandling of COVID, he would have easily cruised to reelection. Yeah. I mean, the economy was fine pre covid, I, and people tend to vote their pocket

01:10:47 [Speaker Changed] Posts. Yeah. And, and this is the stuff where I think we just can never know. But I, I, you know, my my my point is that when you accept that these things are so fragile, the hubris that comes with it is reduced because you start to think, okay, the A, this is not inevitable. BI didn’t control this completely. And c because it’s so derived from contingency, maybe I shouldn’t over confidently try to manipulate the system. I think these are the things where like, you know, some people will think will be listening to me and say, oh, this is a bit of a parlor game. These are all thought experiments, et cetera. I think the lesson, the important lesson is that when you accept these strange happenstance events, the way chaos theory actually works in, in social systems, you have an appreciation for the fact that you simply cannot control anything. And when you accept that you live in a world where you are more likely to focus on resilience and less likely to focus on optimization to the absolute limit.

01:11:41 [Speaker Changed] So, so last two random examples I want to ask about. First. I, I love the example you give of Keith Jarret live at the Opera House in Germany. He’s supposed to come in and play on a, a beautiful, you know, concert piano. Instead he shows up, there’s an old rickety attitude piano, and he has to improvise around broken keys and attitude notes. This becomes the bestselling solo jazz album in history.

01:12:12 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. So this is the lesson of how sometimes forced experimentation can be really good for innovation. So, you know, this guy basically ha ha you know, plays a, a crappy piano and ends up producing something incredible. He never would’ve chosen to do that. It was forced on him. Right. It was an accident. Now, one of my favorite studies that’s around that section of the book is a, a study about a tube strike in London where they’ve geolocated all the data of the commuters and they look at these anonymous cell phone data in know pathways to work. And everybody has to find a different way to work. ’cause the subway system has just been shut down by these drivers on strike. What they found is that 5% of the commuters stuck with the new pathway to work after the strike because they were forced to sort of try something new and they realized they’ve liked the new alternative.

01:12:53 And I think this is something where, because of optimization in our lives, you know, we’re always looking for the TripAdvisor quote or the, you know, the perfect way on Google maps. You experiment less and when you experiment less, you actually find that you, you don’t navigate uncertainty as well. And I think this is the lesson, again, it brings us back to evolution. The wisdom of evolution is experimentation through uncertainty. Right. And I think that’s where, where, where humans, when they have hubris, experiment less and become less resilient. And I think it’s a very important lesson for us. Alright,

01:13:19 [Speaker Changed] So now I’m gonna get super wonky on you. And, and you use the, the thought experiment of laplace’s demon. You have a demon that has perfect knowledge of every atom in the universe. But I, and, and because of that precise detail, they know everything that’s happened. They know everything that’s going on right now, and they know that everything that’s gonna happen. Let me throw a curve ball at you. The latest findings from quantum research and, and and physics is that, well, you can know everything. You can know the location of electron or its spin and handedness, but not both. Yeah. So that kind of raises the question, even laplace’s thought experiment with the demon. It, there’s too much randomness to, for even an all knowing demon to be able to predict the future.

01:14:12 [Speaker Changed] Yeah. We’re we’re covering all the bases today. We got quantum mechanics now. So quantum mechanics, I mean, the thing is, it is absolutely the case that the scientific interpretation of highly verified experimental data is that probably the only genuinely random thing in the universe is quantum effects of the atomic and subatomic levels. Right? Now the question is what does that mean? And so this is where things get very trippy very quickly because the many world’s interpretation of quantum mechanics where an infinite number of things that can happen do happen. And there’s an infinite copy of you in infinite universes, right. That is still a deterministic universe where laplace’s demon could theoretically be true. Right? Because then you would know, you just, you wouldn’t know which universe you were in, but it would be all the universes are happening all the time. Right. Whereas if you take the, the standard interpretation of quantum mechanics or the Copenhagen interpretation, then yes, you have irreducible randomness in determinism is correct, and therefore la place’s demon is nonsensical.

01:15:04 So, you know, I mean there’s lots of reasons why laplace’s demon probably wouldn’t work anyway that a lot of philosophers have objections to. But it is, I, this is one of those fascinating questions, I think is that, you know, we, we have this world where we believe we have more understanding than any, you know, human ever alive. But the big questions are still completely uncertain to us. We don’t understand consciousness, we have no idea what produces it. And we also don’t understand anything about quantum mechanics in terms of what it actually means. And these are like the building blocks of our world. You know, I, I think that’s pretty amazing to imagine that. And it gives us a healthy dose of sort of, you know, a bit of humility because we just, there’s so much we still don’t understand,

01:15:46 [Speaker Changed] Throw free will in that also, whether or not you, you right between the intersection of quantum mechanics and consciousness, you know, do we really control even our own a agency? Forget the rest of the world. It’s, it’s even more complex. So, so I only have you for a handful of minutes and I want to jump to my favorite questions that I ask all of my guests starting with tell us what you’ve been streaming these days. What, what are you watching or listening to?

01:16:15 [Speaker Changed] Yeah, I’ve, my, my favorite show that I’ve been watching recently is called Slow Horses. It’s the Apple tv. Yeah. Great spy drama. And I’ve read all the books too, which I highly recommend by Mick Heron. You know, I think there’s, in terms of, in terms of podcasts, if people are interested in some of the ideas that I’ve been talking about, there’s a podcast called Mindscape by a physicist named Sean Carroll, who’s one of the main proponents of the Many Worlds hypothesis. It’s nerdy, I’m not gonna lie, you know, this is, it’s a brainy podcast, but it’s something where he brings on really smart people and asks them questions that only Sean Carroll could come up with as a highly, highly informed quantum mechanics researcher, but about all sorts of things. Politics, economics, life, philosophy, et cetera. So I highly recommend the Mindscape podcast.

01:16:59 [Speaker Changed] Tell us about your mentors who helped shape your career.

01:17:03 [Speaker Changed] Yeah, you know, I mean, I think my, my mom was one of ’em. She decided to run for school board and that’s probably the the reason why I ended up interested in politics when I, you know, I was eight years old and she decided to run for the local school board. You know, there’s a lot of, a lot of teachers. I had, I think my main one though is my, my PhD advisor, Nick Cheeseman is his name. He’s a professor previously at Oxford, now at the University of Birmingham. We co-wrote a book together called How to Rigg an Election. And, you know, I mean he,

01:17:28 [Speaker Changed] What year was that?

01:17:29 [Speaker Changed] This came out in 2018. So it was, yeah, it’s all, all about election rigging around the world. But it’s, you know, he, he was one of these people who just like really taught me how to think about change in a very detailed and complex way. And I owe a lot of my career to him, I think.

01:17:44 [Speaker Changed] And, and since you mentioned books, let, let’s talk about what you’re reading now and what are some of your favorites?

01:17:51 [Speaker Changed] Yeah, so I, I read a lot of fiction and nonfiction, both. There’s a nonfiction book I highly recommend called Beyond Measure by James Vincent. And it really does dovetail with some of the ideas we’ve been talking about. It’s a history of measurement. And this is a perfect example of what I talked about with Lock-in, because the sort of way that we subdivide the world is often completely arbitrary. So much of America, by the way, is, is arranged the way it is because of a thing called the Gunter chain, which is why city blocks are arranged the way they are. It’s this arbitrary measure to try to subdivide land in a way that was standardized. So yeah, beyond measure’s. Very good. I love Kurt Vonnegut as a novelist. His book Cat’s Cradle and Sirens of Titan are my two favorite novels along with Douglas Adams’ work Hit Checker’s Guide to the Galaxy. So I can’t recommend all of those enough.

01:18:37 [Speaker Changed] You, it’s funny ’cause when you’re talking about the various things that change history, I’m normally not a big fan of the revisionist history, but man in the High Castle by Philip k Dick, what happens if the US loses World War II and, and Japan and Germany take over the world? Fascinating book. Along those similar concepts and, and our, our final two questions. What sort of advice would you give a recent college grad interested in a career in either political science or, or writing?

01:19:11 [Speaker Changed] It’s fine. I, I give, I do give advice to people who are about to graduate all the time. And what I always tell them is, is to try things out. I mean, the, the period of, of exploration in the twenties is one where I think people end up much happier if they sort of do a trial and error approach, realize what works for them, what doesn’t work for them. My brother always used to say that the most important internship he ever had was the one he hated the most because he realized he, he thought he wanted to be a geneticist. He got this like plumb post as a, a researcher on fig wasps of all things, right? Hated every minute of it. Now he’s a doctor and loves it, but it was because he listened to that feedback in his own experience and said, you know, this is not for me. So, you know, really go out, try things and take notes about what you like and what you don’t like and then that will help you make better decisions.

01:20:00 [Speaker Changed] And our final question, what do you know about the world of chaos theory, causation, the butterfly effect today, you wish you knew 20 or so years ago?

01:20:11 [Speaker Changed] Well, I like, you know, one of the things is that I’m derived from a mass murder ’cause I didn’t know that previously, but I, but I, I will say that, you know, I think that navigating uncertainty is one of those things that I used to think was only something that we should try to slay and tame. What I like to appreciate now, and I write about some of the philosophy of this in Fluke is I actually think uncertainty can be a really wonderful thing and you just have to sometimes accept it and then navigate based on the understanding that there is radical uncertainty that we can’t eliminate. And that is where some of the best flukes in life come from. Really,

01:20:46 [Speaker Changed] Very fascinating. Thank you Brian for being so generous with your time. We have been speaking with Brian Klass, professor of Global Politics at University College London, and author of the new book, fluke Chance Chaos, and Why Everything We Do Matters. If you enjoy this conversation, well be sure and check out any of the 500 previous discussions we’ve had over the past 10 years. You can find those at iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, wherever you find your favorite podcast. Check out my new podcast at the Money once a week, a quick discussion with an expert on a subject that matters to investors. You can find those in the Masters in Business feed. Sign up for my daily reading Follow me on Twitter at alz, follow the full family of Bloomberg podcasts at podcast. I would be remiss if I did not thank the correct team that puts these conversations together each week. Kaylee Lapper is my audio engineer, A of BR is my project manager. Sean Russo is my researcher. Anna Luke is my producer. I’m Barry Ritholz. You’ve been listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.




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