Nasim Taleb: the Great war is inevitable

The most important for understanding the future event of 2016 year, in my opinion, was not a sensational election trump and Brickset, and very few people noticed Nobel Symposium, where Nassim Taleb has refuted the theory on the decline of violence in the world, and at the same time mathematically justified the terrible conclusion of the great war with tens of millions of victims could not be avoided.

Ironically, the end of years of "intellectual war" of scientists about the prospects of the real wars were delivered at the Symposium of the Nobel peace Committee.

The story of this "intellectual war" interesting and exciting as a Thriller. To understand its origins, jets and currents, need to know what preceded it and what was its catalyst.

Vasily Vereshchagin, “the Apotheosis of war”

It all started almost 20 years ago, when the notion of singularity has gained a chronological outline in connection with the publication of independent scientists from different countries, United in the same progression of evolutionary and historical process.

The results of the calculations showed that by the mid twenty-first century the evolution of humanity and its history, in their common understanding can end.

Three scenarios for the singularity

Independent calculations of the three scientists from Australia, Russia and the United States showed that socresonline between global phase transitions in the history of the biosphere and antroposphere form a geometric progression, and the denominator of which is approximately equal to the base of the natural logarithms.

Extrapolating the hyperbolic curve into the future, all three authors at the end of the last century came to the conclusion that about the middle of the XXI century, the hyperbole turns into a vertical.

Scale invariance of the distribution of the biospheric phase transitions in time (A. D. Panov/Singular point of history, 2005)

This result is outlined in the international literature as Vertical Snooks-Panov, should mean that the rate of evolutionary change tends to infinity, and the intervals between the phase transitions to zero.

In accordance with this theory,

in the middle of the XXI century humanity will have a new phase transition which will put humanity on a different phase of development.


The reasons for this phase transition there is no consensus. But there are three hypotheses.

Some are called as such cause a technological singularity — the hypothetical moment after which technical progress becomes so fast and complex that it would be incomprehensible, presumably following the establishment of artificial intelligence and self-replicating machines, integration of people with computers or a significant stepwise increase the capabilities of the human brain due to biotechnologies.

— Others believe the most likely cause of civilizational phase transition global military conflictthat will either destroy humanity, or to discard it in prehistoric times. In the words of Einstein — "I do not know what weapons will be conducted a Third world war, but the Fourth will be used stones."

— Still others believe the most probable combination of the two above factors — technological progress and war, summarizing them in a single concept — "knowledge of mass destruction" (Knowledge-enabled Mass Destruction).

However, regardless of the reasons for the phase transition of mankind, mathematically there are only three scenarios of further developments on the three possible attractors.

N. B. Any non-linear system to tend to some stable end — States, attractors, one of which, sooner or later comes (although it is not always possible to predict to what, when and how the path she will reach).

1. Scenario 1 — drop curve down. Such a movement towards a simple attractor — the self-destruction of civilization, the beginning of the "descending branch" of history with the prospect of a more or less painful degradation of anthropo - and biosphere to a state of thermodynamic equilibrium (heat death). This option is most likely the result of a global war.

2. 2nd scenario horizontal strange attractor (horizontal movement sideways) involves the incorporation of mechanisms of stabilization in the long term. In a sense, this is also the "end of history", as it ceased to develop progressively, intelligence support restricts the ability of controlling large-scale processes and becomes hostage to the natural aging trends of the biota of the Earth, Sun, etc. and this option is also similar to the result of a global war.

3. Finally the 3rd scenariovertical strange attractor would mean an unprecedented abrupt turn of the vector "removal from nature", most likely as a result of the above Technological singularity.

The second and third scenarios capitalized filmmakers, writers and most careful of visionaries.

— 3rd scenario has become a favorite story of Hollywood (Terminator, Matrix, etc.) and technological newsmakers, visionaries-alarmists (Nick Bostrom, Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, etc.).

— 2nd scenario in the extrapolation of today's consumer society in the world, and have not found the antidote to nightmares of consumerism, consumption and idleness, became the basis for many literary dystopias, starting with the first (and most successful) of its description in the novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky "Predatory things of the century".

— But with the 1st of the apocalyptic scenario, the most humanly obvious and okay, it was not easy. He spoiled cards and business, and politicians, depriving humanity of motivation to buy new things, invest in securities and to vote for the same and the same politicians. Who will be doing it in anticipation of the coming Apocalypse?

To make this scenario possible future of mankind from the realm of public perceptions, has been used tried and tested technique from the practice of advocates and the forest fire is to let the incoming fire (idea, concept). This counter fire was the concept of the steady decline of war and violence in the world (also known as the concept of a lasting peace).

Good angels long world

The main guide concept long the world was Steven Pinker (Steven Pinker) is an American cognitive psychologist, Professor at Harvard University, who wrote on this topic the world best seller "The Better Angels of Our Nature. The Decline of Violence in History and Its Causes" ("Good angels of our nature. Reduction of violence in history and its causes").

In his book, Pinker concluded:

the new rules of the hostel established by the States gradually changed the very human psychology, which began to take into account the interests and needs of other people.


The spread of literacy, democracy, and the development of supranational institutions, according to Pinker, has played an important role in the process of civilization. Did good work and Commerce, demanding tolerance and ‘turning the enemies into buyers’.

Demographic trends, in particular, has led to a reduction in the number of youth in the total population, which reduced the army of people who are prone to violence. Technology since the atomic bomb and ending with TV and the Internet, also weakened the incentives for launching a large-scale war.

Finally, at the conclusion of Pinker, the leaders of the superpowers have done a great job to end the arms race and end the cold war. And ideology, so much contributed to the expansion of violence in the 20th century (fascism and communism), was decisively defeated.

Reducing bloody wars in human history (Pinker)

The main conclusion from the concept Pinker says:

the result of the decline of violence is observed since 1945, the long peace without a global military conflict, which included humanity after the end of the 2nd World war.


This conclusion Pinker illustrated by extensive statistical data.

Statistics of the reduction of military victims in the world after the 2nd World war (Joe Posner/Vox, 2016)

But as the statistical base used by Pinker to justify the concept of a long peace, was limited to 2009, in 2010е years after the military conflicts in Syria and Iraq, Pinker has a lot of questions about confirmation of his concepts on new data.

Pinker was quick to respond to new housing statistics, confirming the fidelity of the concept and after 2009.

However, in 2015 after a radical intensification of the conflict in Syria involving ISIS (banned in Russia) and the outbreak of terror in Europe questioning gaze went again to Pinker. His response was sure — "actually, things are going better". Again with plenty of compelling charts and diagrams.

Of course not without criticism, which appeared immediately after the release of the bestselling Pinker. Criticized for different.

Reviewer of the journal ‘the new Yorker’ pointed out that the book focuses solely on Western Europe, and that if we add the casualties of war, victims of the regimes of Stalin and Mao, the number of people who died a violent death in the middle of the 20th century, will be over a hundred million.

British philosopher rebuked Pinker is that he speculates on science to bolster faith in the future. He called the concept Pinker "high tech prayer wheel — a set of spreadsheets with inspiring statistics on the progress of humanity, and algorithms have been specifically selected to prove the existence of this progress.

But clearly all the main claim to the concept Pinker was formulated by Harvard Professor — "Pinker prefers to replace the lack of data is bad data"

Pinker repeatedly responded to criticism. The most striking example of such a response — an article in the journal Sociology, where he responded to several critics (each individually and all together). Ended this response very effectively.

Pinker announced that on the basis of clarifying the concept of data, he predicts —

The separation of the Crimea from Ukraine, with high probability would become in the twentieth century the occasion for world military conflict, now will not lead to a world war, or even serious military conflict.

And invited all comers to test this prediction in the next few months (it was in the beginning of March 2014).

And so it happened, and criticism, according to Pinker, was completely confounded. They had only to pull the plug on nimble Pinker and his uplifting utopia of good angels long world.

But then the "intellectual war" with the author of the concept of long the world was announced by Nassim Taleb.

Chronicle of the "intellectual war"

Steven Pinker (Rose Lincoln / Harvard University, 2015) and Nassim Taleb (Jerome Favre / Bloomberg / Getty Images, 2014)

Criticism of the concept of a long-lasting peace Nassim Taleb is fundamentally different from all previous.

In the words of Taleb,

"Think of math objects (exactly defined and positioned), philosophical concepts, jurists — structures, logic operators, and fools — with".

And so Taleb decided to build a criticism of the concept Pinker is not the words (which Pinker also answered the words — and in the superior number), and on purely mathematical reasoning to answer that is meaningful only in the language of mathematics, and not another lengthy discourse.

The main mathematical object of criticism was a distribution with "thick tails" (Fat-Tailed Distribution). This probability distribution has the particularity to show a large asymmetry factor. In the "thick tail" of the graph of this distribution are often hiding "Black swans" — rare, unlikely, but very significant events which renders meaningless averages.

Get as in the anecdote about the average temperature in the hospital is 36.6 and ten people died.

Or as in the famous "surprise Turkey", — who believed that the purpose of the owner — it is well to feed, and its purpose is abundantly fed. After all, it was always thought Turkey. But here come Christmas, and surprise surprise.

Illustration of Taleb's "Turkey surprise": the distribution of military casualties on the Pinker — the first hundred years (The "Long Peace" is a Statistical Illusion)

Illustration of Taleb's "Turkey surprise": the same distribution, the second hundred years (The "Long Peace" is a Statistical Illusion)

The argument Taleb, it follows that the theory of the long world — just nonsense idealist who does not understand the mathematical subtleties in the processing of distributions with "thick tails." Taleb compared the theory of the reduction in the number of wars and violence with the theory of growing without the collapses of the stock market.

Soon came the answer Pinker criticism of Taleba, followed by another intellectual salvo from Taleb. Now in collaboration with Cirillo Pasquale (Pasquale Cirillo) — a Professor from Delft University of technology.

Recent scientific work has a great value in addition to criticism of the concept of a lasting peace. In it, the authors for the first time in the world, mathematically proved that to this day the historical data on military casualties at times exaggerated. The authors not only proved it, but did a great job on the cleanup of thousands of historical sources.

But the main achievement of this work is that the authors, using

— the theory of limit values, Extreme value theory (special section medstatistiki to work with "Black swans", which has the maximum deviation of the probability from the mean value — hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, etc.)

— generalized Pareto distribution — Generalized Pareto distribution (allows to model only the tail of the distribution)

proved following 2 major provisions.

1. The hypothesis about the reduction of violence (for if the entire history or over the past 70 years) statistically significant.

2. As in the entire previous history of the war with the maximum number of deaths happened about once in 100 years since the 2nd World war 70+ years can't be an argument about any change in trend in the decline of violence in the world.

In fairness, it should be mentioned that not without criticism and this outstanding work of Taleb and Cirillo.

Critics, at first alone and then together with the Pinker tried (again, only in words) put into question the approach of Taleb and Cirillo.

Like, who can prove that after 1945 did not change the trend that existed in all previous centuries? — interesting argument, allowing to cast doubt on anything from Newton's laws to the daily occurence of sunrise (who can prove that tomorrow it with 100% rise?).

Another critic tried to protest, the main weapon of Taleb and Sirillo their mathematical method. But in the end, the argument was purely verbal. Supposedly, the theory of limit values — thing good and right, but who said that it is applicable in the analysis of the number of military victims in time? It turns out again, who will prove ... ?

I can only tell you about the last battle of this "intellectual war" — a Nobel Symposium in the Norwegian city of Bergen.

The battle of Bergen

Apparently, the "intellectual war" Taleb and Pinker has reached a critical level, since the discussion about the concept of the world has long been the subject of the 161-th Nobel Symposium, "Causes of peace" (The Causes of Peace).

It was organized by the Director of the Nobel Institute, Secretary of the Nobel Committee for awarding the peace prize, Professor of history Njolstad.

The theme of war and peace Njolstad engaged for a long time. 15 years ago he was the organizer of the Nobel Symposium "War and peace in the 20th century and beyond" (War and Peace in the 20th Century and Beyond). Then the Symposium was attended by 29 Nobel laureates, and the results were published in a book.

In June 2016 161-th Nobel Symposium, "Causes of peace" was attended by three of the five members of the Nobel Committee for awarding the peace prize, and 20 world-renowned scientists, among them such legends in political science, as Bruce Russett, Joanne Gowa and Paul Diehl, and a number of famous historians, including Niall Ferguson and Fred Logevall.

The second speaker was Professor of political science at Ohio state University Braumuller bear (Bear Braumoeller). The issues of war and peace — his specialty. But the main thing — not only is he a Professor of political science, but well versed in medstatistika (which is a huge rarity). To understand this, just look at his famous article "is war disappearing?" (Is War Disappearing?) .

Professor bear Braumoeller was invited by the Nobel Institute as the third opinion in the "intellectual war" Taleb and Pinker, as a representative of specialized topics focus dealing with war and peace. After all, with all due respect to Pinker and Taleb, first specialization — psychology and the second medstatistika.

As a result of both presentations was clear —

Despite the fact that Taleb and Braumoeller used different methods and different initial data, the results coincided.

There is no decline in violence is not observed. A "long peace" is just another predictable pause between the global wars.

Review Taleb on non-participation Pinker at the Nobel Symposium (Facebook Nassim Taleb)

This naive, naive, naive, naive world

Surprisingly, but anything after the Symposium has not changed.

About the story you just read, in addition to you, known only to the participants of the Symposium and hundreds of specialized scientists around the world. None of the media never bothered to tell about it.

Well, the very concept of a long-lasting peace continues to be one of mass popular myths. People make new purchases, invested in shares and choose new politicians. Everything goes on as usual.

Steven Pinker is convinced that his "intellectual war" by Taleb ended in a draw, and continues to promote a lasting peace in the popular press, deprecating their opponents that their pessimism can be self-fulfilling self-fulfilling prophecy.

Well, those few who understand that the concept of a long-lasting peace is a myth, remains (as written by one of the participants of the Nobel Symposium 161го) to prepare for the great war, which, it seems, is inevitable.

"In the 20th century, the death and destruction was sown by fanatical nationalists and the Communists. But in our time in place of the "Capital" came the Koran ... a Brief peace on our planet ends. Errors of Western policy, starting with the inept intervention in Iraq to a strange intervention in Syria can only partially explain the return of conflict. It is more important than explosive mixture of economic instability, the explosive growth of youth populations, disruptive technologies and the rapid spread of a deadly ideology".published


Author: Sergey Karelov




See also

New and interesting