Currents 063: Jessica Flack on nth-Order Effects of the Russia-Ukraine War

Jim talks with Jessica Flack about nth-order effects of the war in Ukraine…

Jim talks with Jessica Flack about nth-order effects of the war in Ukraine. They discuss the meaning of second- and nth-order effects, black swans, Gaussian vs fat-tailed distribution models of extreme social events, factoring in Ukraine’s wheat & Russia’s fertilizer production, agency & reflexivity, how perceptions of events as extreme can amplify second-order effects, the “hot hand phenomenon” in sports, the black swan of war in Europe, swift coordination against Putin as an effect of collective intelligence failures around Covid, Russia’s “escalate-to-de-escalate” doctrine, arena selection & lessons China might take from the war, the possibility of a bipolar war between democratic-leaning & authoritarian countries, network effects of excluding Russia permanently, and much more.

Jessica Flack is a professor at the Santa Fe Institute. Flack directs SFI’s Collective Computation Group (C4). Flack was formerly founding director of the Center for Complexity and Collective Computation in the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Flack received her PhD from Emory in 2003, studying cognitive science, animal behavior and evolutionary theory, and BA with honors from Cornell in 1996. Flack’s work has been covered by scientists and science journalists in many publications and media outlets, including Quanta Magazine, the BBC, NPR, Nature, Science, The Economist, New Scientist, and Current Biology.

Flack’s research focuses on collective computation and its role in the emergence of robust structure and function in nature and society. A central philosophical issue behind this work is how nature overcomes subjectivity inherent in information processing systems to produce collective, ordered states.