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Global Financial Cancer
JOURNAL: Global Financial Cancer (embedded links at the original for the text in blue)

A couple of years ago, I wrote that the underlying structure of the global financial system was a "bow-tie." Here's what I said (it's worth going back and reading the entire article and this paper on bow-ties from John Doyle at Caltech):

If we look at this new global system from a distance, its architecture is something called a bow-tie. This is a universal control system architecture that underlies complex systems from the Internet to cell metabolism.

[Image: 6a00d83451576d69e20154349acacb970c-120wi]

What is a Bow Tie?

The bow-tie is a very powerful approach to organizing a complex system (it's a system design that is used by controls engineers.) Visually, it starts with complex inputs (the left side of the bow-tie), boils them down into simple build blocks (the knot), which then allows the construction of complex outputs (the right side of the bow-tie. Here are a couple of examples of how a bow-tie works (it's pretty elegant):

In finance, we have lots of business on the left hand side of the bow, they produce profits that produce $$ at the bow, which can then be lent out/invested in new businesses/etc. on the right. In metabolism, we eat lots of different foods (left) that are reduced to simple sugars/etc. by our body (the knot) which are then used to build complex body parts and power complex activities (right). Finally, the Internet starts with Web sites/etc. built with code, that output is reduced to bits by the Internet protocol, which is then recombined into the ways you use this data on your desktop.

As you can see, the bow-tie provides lots of flexiblity. You can have lots of different activities on the left hand side of the bow (input) and through a reduction to simple building block produce an almost unlimited number of outputs.

The Vulnerability of Bow-Ties

Unfortunately, as I mentioned in the earlier article, bow-ties are vulnerable to organisms that attach themselves to the knot at their center (like the way cancer uses the body's metabolism system). These organisms relentlessly use the bow-tie's knot to for selfish ends (rapid growth). The end result is typically death for the system. My suggestion was that the instability we were seeing in the financial system was an indication that it had been co-opted by a malicious, self-serving organism.

Of course, at the time there wasn't much data to support this systemic analysis. That has been rectified with a new paper, The Network of Global Corporate Control by Vitali et. al. from ETH in Zurich. This paper finds, through extensive network analysis, that a small group of tightly intertwined financial institutions control the bow of the global financial system. It is in effect, the world's first super-organism. 147 trans-national companies that the global core that is owned by itself (3/4 of the ownership of firm's in this organism are owned by firms in the organism). This organism is beyond governments. If it is self serving (and this shouldn't be too hard to assume), it is the equivalent of a biological cancer that has metastasized.


This concentration is at a minimum confirmation of central planning at the global level. Which, given the soviet bloc's experience, will lead to disaster.

Posted by John Robb on Wednesday, 17 August 2011 at 04:17 PM
"Where is the intersection between the world's deep hunger and your deep gladness?"

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