Episode 055 Unintended Consequences with Complexity Scientist Yaneer Bar-Yam

Episode 55

Unintended Consequences with Complexity Scientist Yaneer Bar-Yam

May 22, 2017

Haley interviews professor, complexity scientist, and founding president of the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI)Yaneer Bar-Yam, to discuss the nature of global complex problems. Yaneer shares how quickly unintended consequences can ripple throughout our global systems. More specifically, he discusses research he conducted with NECSI on the causes of increasing global food prices. Yaneer states, “We need to understand global consequences in order to be able to act and react effectively to the challenges we are facing today.”  

Show Notes

Quotes from this episode:

“So we traced back the causes of the increasing food prices and what we found actually is that policy decisions in the United States actually led to those increasing food prices. And there are two particular reasons, one is policy that has to do with the US energy and environmental discussions and that is the use of corn for producing ethanol it’s the 10 % of gasoline that we use in our cars. We are using today almost 50% of the US corn crop to produce that 10% of gasoline and while it doesn’t have much of an effect of the energy supply, it turns out that it has such a large effect on the food supply that it actually has been responsible for a doubling of basic food prices around the world and that is because corn is such an integral part of the food supply. It’s not just used for eating, it’s used for the feeding of animals to make dairy products and meat products and it’s used for making sugar, and it takes land away from other crops." - Yaneer Bar-Yam

"The US government decided to mandate the US use of biofuels for gasoline and that is actually what caused the dramatic increase in global food prices. The other reason for the increase in global food prices was a deregulation of commodity markets and when the mortgage market and stock market crashed, money from those markets didn’t have anywhere to go and went into the commodity markets and including agricultural commodities or foods and drove the prices up. And so the crash in 2007 was a direct precursor of a dramatic rise in food prices and again the dramatic rise in 2010 and 2011 was just an oscillation like the ringing of a bell. So we have US policy decisions giving rise to increasing global food prices, giving rise to the Arab Spring and the breakdown of order in several countries, including Syria which led to the place being sort of an incubator for ISIS and leading to the global refugee crisis from Syria and we are watching this global cascade that goes from economic factors to food to riots and revolutions to refugees cascading around the world.”- Yaneer Bar-Yam

“We have to think about the global consequences and be aware that actions of people in other parts of the world are going to affect us and any idea that we can truly isolate ourselves from those effects is not correct.”- Yaneer Bar-Yam

“Overall we do need to understand the global consequences in order to be able to act and react effectively to the challenges we are facing today.”- Yaneer Bar-Yam

“Today we have so many more ways to engage with each other and work together, but we don’t really know how to use that ability and that change in use is a societal transformation. People talk a lot about the technology but the real change that will affect us very dramatically is the change of how we interact with each other.”- Yaneer Bar-Yam