10 Concepts That Explain the Modern World

Parkinson’s Law: Companies become bigger and worse over time. Clerks manufacture work for each other as overall capacity dips. When British Navy ships went down from 68 to 20, officials increased by 78%.

Chesterton Fence: If you don’t know what an old custom does, don’t touch it. It may be holding back problems you’re completely unaware of. You’ve not seen the wolves yet because of the very fence you’re about to demolish.

The Medici Effect: Sculptors, painters, and architects converged in Florence as the Medicis were funding the artists. Their proximity led to a fertile dialogue which, in turn, led to the Renaissance. The internet will amplify this cross-pollination of ideas.

The Centipede’s Dilemma: Ask a centipede which one of its hundred legs moves the fastest and it forgets how to move. Reflecting on what we normally do without thought ironically worsens performance. A culture of endless self-reflection, therapy, and navel gazing is eroding important life skills.

Tyranny of small decisions: Individuals make small decisions to maximize convenience but this leads to massive social failure. We nod along to contagious ideas like “gender is fluid” because resisting them is too much work – till kids start getting transgender surgery. The slippery slope is not a fallacy but a fundamental reality.

The Zebra Effect explains why people don’t want to stand out. Zebras are hard to individually study as it’s nearly impossible to track one of them for long (lost in the striped chaos). So scientists once put a big red dot on one zebra so he could be tracked & studied. Lions zeroed in on him and hunted him with ease. Getting lost among others is a survival mechanism. Hence the human desire to conform.

Why the ruler can’t rule: The executive head can’t implement his ideas on ground because the bureaucrats are closer to it, and have an agenda of their own. The Tzar of Russia had to deal with the Deep State too. Nicholas II: “I never ruled Russia. 10,000 clerks ruled Russia.”

Gall’s law: A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. Only fools and modern technocrats try to create complex systems from scratch.

Minimal Self Hypothesis: Narcissism is a “strategic retreat” into the safety of one’s own self. When the future looks random, inexplicable, and informationally overwhelming, people enter survival mode. The self becomes “minimal” to reduce its surface area to pain. People today are giving up on commitment of all sorts to conserve energy for vague and upcoming disasters.

Tetris Syndrome: The world will eventually start looking like Tetris blocks if you play the game too much. What we do most often becomes the metaphor through which we look at the world. Takeaway: Most people today are addicted to their 2D phones – and this will hurt the general aptitude for dealing with the 3D world.