Thursday, February 10, 2011

What can we know?

Recent events in Egypt (#Jan25), Tunisia and Jordan remind us that human behavior makes prediction possible over certain dimensions, but not others, such as time. To wit, here are a few great minds on the inevitability of the Egyptian protests:
“The events of the past two weeks in Egypt were not a surprise, but no one could have predicted the timing,” said Osman, one of a few authors whose new Egypt-related books come at a fortuitous time. “A socio-political eruption in Egypt, from within the middle classes, led by the youths, was inescapable."

“I have much to say, and the last chapter in my book talks about my view that neoliberal Cairo under Mubarak is a like a bomb in the tomb of a longer Egyptian history,” AlSayyad wrote in an email. “I predicted in the ‘Cairo’ book, as well as in my ‘The Fundamentalist City’ book released back in November, that it will ultimately detonate. I just could not have expected it to happen so soon.”
Both quotes come from this piece in the Washington Post. And from Twitter, we get the succinct (@auerswald):
How predictable was ? Put heat on, water will boil. Seal lid, pot will explode. Moment unpredictable. Outcome not.
Also see this longer post, which includes a great quote by Gregory Bateson. The CIA expressed similar views (Wired). The inevitability of human freedom has become a resurgent topic given recent events and it is a theme we will explore in future posts.

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