Quick Questions for Ian Goldin, author of The Butterfly Defect

Goldin_Butterfly_au photoIan Goldin is Professor of Globalisation and Development and Director of the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford.  He has published 19 books, the most recent of which is The Butterfly Defect: How Globalization Creates Systemic Risks, and What to Do about It. Andy Haldane of the Bank of England describes globalization as, “the girl with the curl,” because “when it is good, it is very, very good, but when it is bad it is awful.” He praises The Butterfly Defect as an explanation of “why this opportunity-cum-threat calls for a radical new approach to the setting of public policy–an approach which to be successful needs to be every bit as hyperconnected as the world it is operating in.”

Now, on to the questions!

Why did you write The Butterfly Defect?

I wrote The Butterfly Defect, together with Mike Mariathasan, as I believe that globalization, by which I mean the growing openness and integration of societies, is a force for immense good. But, it also causes great harm. Unless we are able to mitigate the negative factors and harvest the positive elements more effectively, it will lead to growing instability and disastrous outcomes.


The financial crisis was the first of a new type of systemic crisis which will characterise the 21st century.


This is the last of my series of four books on globalization. The previous three identified the factors that could lead to better management and policies (Globalization for Development: Meeting New Challenges; Exceptional People: How migration shaped our world and will define our future; and Divided Nations: Why global governance is failing, and what we can do about it). The Butterfly Defect focuses on the systemic risks being generated by globalization. These threaten to unravel the progress made to date and lead to the rejection of integration and globalization. Rising protectionism, zenophobia, nationalism and other symptoms of the desire to reduce interdependence are manifestations of the concerns that citizens and politicians have that globalization is not working and that the risks associated with integration outweigh the benefits. The book identifies ways to manage and mitigate the risks.

What was the most interesting thing you learned from writing this book?

The financial crisis represents a watershed in history. It is the first of a new type of systemic crisis which will characterise the 21st century. The four key failures which gave rise to the crisis are present in many other areas. Unless we can manage the new forms of systemic risk more effectively it will lead to growing global instability. Although the rising threat posed by pandemics, cyber attacks, widening inequality and political fracturing, environmental collapse and climate change, infrastructure weaknesses and supply chain disruptions and other systemic risks appear unrelated, they have the same underlying causes and solutions. These are:  accelerating integration and interdependency as a result of economic and political opening and new technological platforms; growing complexity and an inability to discern cause and effect in the blizzard of big data; technological revolutions leaping ahead of evolutionary institutional reforms; and, the growing gap between local management by divided nations of global and regional processes and systems.

What do you think is the book’s most important contribution?


Globalization has been the most powerful force for improvements in living standards, but it has also unleashed dangerous and potentially destabilising forces.


The book is the first to identify systemic risks as being an endemic feature of globalization.  It stresses that globalization has been the most powerful force for improvements in living standards around the world, but the engine of progress has also unleashed dangerous and potentially destabilising forces which could not only arrest the progress made, but lead to instability and reversals.  The book provides perspectives on how we can manage growing integration and complexity. It is unique in the breadth and depth of its analysis. It builds a bridge between the cutting edge of academic knowledge and the worlds of business and policy.

Who is the audience?

The book has been written for the widest possible audience.  It is rooted in scholarly research and provides a great deal of evidence and analysis of the theory.  However, the language is accessible and I have worked hard to reduce jargon and avoid equations and writing that cannot be widely understood.  My aim has been to write a book that will be by students, business people, policy makers and anyone concerned with a sustainable future for our planet.

How did you come up with the title, The Butterfly Defect: How Globalization Creates Systemic Risks, and What to Do about It?

The title arose in a discussion with a student at Oxford who was engaged as a research assistant for the book. It is a play on the concept of the butterfly effect, which is well known in complexity theory and physics, with the replacement of ‘effect’ by ‘defect’ seeking to highlight the risks associated with a highly interconnected world.  The subtitle tells readers what the book is about and highlights the fact that The Butterfly Defect goes beyond identifying the issues to provide practical lessons and tools to manage the systemic risks which globalization creates.

 


 Ian is the author of:

bookjacket The Butterfly Defect: How Globalization Creates Systemic Risks, and What to Do about It
Ian Goldin & Mike Mariathasan

Hardcover | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691154701
320 pp. | 6 x 9 | 45 line illus. 5 tables.

eBook | ISBN: 9781400850204

Reviews

Table of Contents

Sample the Introduction[PDF]

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