Seeing Around Corners

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xxxxxx's picture
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 27 2008
Posts: 32
Seeing Around Corners

Six months ago the business and banking world were still talking about “seeing around corners”.  This was one of those phrases that were spoken in meetings of senior executives when describing how they were focused on the impossible task of anticipating the worst that could happen and preventing it.  It would seem that all they really needed to do was to see what was right in front of their faces.

 The phrase “seeing around corners” appears to have originated from an article by Jonathan Rauch in the April 2002 edition of the Atlantic.  It’s a long article that essentially documents the development of computer generated artificial or A-societies.  These societies, admittedly somewhat two dimensional and far less complex than real societies, allowed researchers to understand the impact of values and policies on large groups of people.  Their predictive use was found to be limited.  As Rauch himself observed: That is not to say that A-societies will ever predict exact events and detailed outcomes in real societies; on the contrary, a fundamental lesson of A-societies seems to be that the only way to forecast the future is to live it.” But some consultant somewhere latched onto the phrase and, with little concern about the underlying research, popularized it in the ranks of risk managers everywhere.  The wreckage that we are experiencing now would seem to put the lie to any ability to foresee the future but we have to ask whether or not what we would like to see around the corner is really more about how we see where we are in the moment. 

Our consumption, our ability to seemingly have whatever we want has blinded us to the fact that we have chosen to live primarily in fear.  Odd behavior for a people who have had a standard of living for some that surpasses anywhere else in the world and who have had a reputation as the boldest risk-takers in history.  We convinced ourselves that our current behavior was beyond reproach; seeing around corners was in the service of assuring ourselves that we could behave the same way in the future.


Never mind that no one can see around corners and never mind that the evidence of what is happening was and has been abundantly clear for some time.  We didn’t want to see that evidence much the same way that the Bank of America didn’t want to see the losses at Merrill Lynch that were made available to them on a daily basis.  We ignore things that frighten us in the moment and try to save ourselves from a vast array of experiences that we imagine might occur sometime in the future.  It would seem that the living that Rauch suggests is the only way to experience the future is an anathema to us.


There is a great deal of energy and thought being given to how we can extract ourselves from the effects of our collapsing economic system.  We debate forms of stimulus but we refuse to discuss the basics of a debt based monetary system.  We deplore high officials who don’t pay their taxes but we don’t want to look at an accounting system that values a desk and a chair on the books of a company but not the human being who sits in the chair and works at the desk.  Any discussion that remotely raises the issue of the impact of financial policy on human beings is slandered as socialist.  We keep trying to look around the corner for the answers and fundamentals of what has caused all our problems are right in front of us.

Some weeks ago I received a pretty vitriolic comment on a piece that I wrote about the lack of outrage in response to the political and financial shenanigans that we have all been experiencing for the past several years.  The anonymous writer complained that “Here we live in one of the best times in human history and all that some people can do is complain about how awful it is.”   I have to think that a large number of people might want to suggest that their experience is not “one of the best times in human history” but the real concern of this writer seems to be that we not look at the source of our problems and the ways in which we might solve them.


Lots of people want to look into the future, particularly now.  It is boom times for psychics of all manner and stripe.  But metaphysics and physics constantly remind us that all we ever really have is right now – this moment.  If we build a solid organization we can withstand the hazards that come our way as well as take advantage of the opportunities.  If we focus on protecting ourselves from our worst fears they will cling to us like a long dark cloak and shape everything we do. 


In a way, perhaps it is the best time in human history.  The choices are so clear.

Gadfly's picture
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 5 2008
Posts: 127
Re: Seeing Around Corners

With all due respect Mr Sharon, you are stating the obvious.  Perhaps a little on the verbose side, but then again I have always been a proponent for minimalism in speech. 

pir8don's picture
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 30 2008
Posts: 456
Re: Seeing Around Corners

Gadfly Me 2



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