Asymmetry drives everything dynamic in this world. Every movement, change and trend has behind it an imbalance of one sort or another between related entities. By contrast, equilibria – moments of which are few and far between – are the cause of stasis. The identification and management of asymmetries is therefore critical not just for understanding where we are, but how we go forward.
Asymmetry takes many forms. The most obvious of them is asymmetric information, the promised land for everyone from military generals to hedge fund traders. But there are other, more subtle asymmetries which can have just as much influence, and which explain many of the tensions around us. These are often structural – an imbalance in access for instance, or of legitimacy, or even of interest and prioritisation – and exist between a wide range of players: governments and people, political parties and voters, companies and customers to name a few. These are often more difficult to perceive and perhaps impossible to rectify.
This is not to say that the world is a zero sum game – far from it. In fact, asymmetries can often lead to a situation where everyone is worse off, and where seeking to correct such an imbalance might help all concerned. If a new invention fails to overcome obstacles to its distribution, it may fall by the wayside becoming a loss not just to its inventor but society as a whole. Visionary politics which fail to garner support may cost a nation its cohesion and even its existence. A football team which cannot find the right balance – on the pitch, or on the sidelines – will prove an expensive disappointment to its supporters. The stakes can be high.
This blog will be dedicated, amongst other things, to the distillation and examination of this asymmetric world.