The butterfly effect

Can we prepare for the unexpected?

The butterfly effect suggests that a seemingly simple event can affect a much more complex system elsewhere. Historically, the term comes from the symbolic example of a tornado that is influenced by a distant butterfly flapping its wings several weeks earlier. Obviously, flapping wings cannot create a tornado. However, small events can serve as catalysts that change the conditions for an event to occur. According to Buddhism, its a common belief that everything is interconected. Therefore, causes and results are linked and interdependent. We live in an ecosystem in which each element has a specific function.

Any change in one part of the system will affect every other part as well. Using the butterfly effect metaphor, we can see that systems around us are chaotic, and prone to sudden change.
That’s the nature of the environment in which states operate and businesses are conducted today, and it is within this context that geopolitical risks must be understood.In today’s world, it is necessary to expect the unexpected.

We cannot know the ramification of every action we take. The world often seems volatile and unpredictable. States are vulnerable and prone to catastrophes, which result from cataclysmic events. As British science writer John Gribbin writes in his book “Deep Simplicity”: “some systems…are very sensitive to their starting conditions, so that a tiny difference in the initial ‘push’ you give them causes a big difference in where they end up”.State and non-state institutions around the world have had to cope with dramatic changes that occur practically overnight due to the “push” that Gribbin writes about. There are many examples of this over the past decades.

The butterfly flapped its wings on December 17, 2010, in Tunisia, with the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, which ignited the Tunisian Revolution and larger Arab uprising against autocratic regimes.
The Arab Spring did not begin with Bouazizi. But if he hadn’t set himself on fire in that precise location and at that moment, the Arab Spring might never have taken place in the way it did. The “push” given by Bouazizi was the cause of what seemed like a series of random events but was a result of growing frustrations and civil unrest.

The Arab world was in a frenzy. Civil wars broke out in Syria and Yemen, and Arab dictators were toppled throughout Africa and the Middle East. NO EVENT IS TO SMALL.  The Arab Spring triggered a tornado in Europe resulting in the refugee crisis and terrorist attacks in Paris, Manchester, Brussels, and other cities. Security and immigration policies had to be re-evaluated as borders were no longer safe. Due to the Arab Spring, new political, economic, and social realities have emerged, causing the EU to take the necessary action to adapt

In Europe, the Arab Spring changed everything. As part of that change, Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016. The Syrian uprising and civil war triggered the refugee crisis, which led to Brexit, an outcome that brought about new immigration and border arrangements between Britain and the continent, disrupting trade and employment. A burning match held by Bouazizi changed the course of not just Tunisia but also Europe and the rest of the world. Chain reactions play an important role in the butterfly effect.

COVID-19’s spread across the globe is another example of how small events (microorganisms) affect complex systems in non-linear ways. The COVID-19 global pandemic is a disruptive event with enormous personal, societal, and economic repercussions, which are magnified by the increasing interconnectedness of our society. As a result of the pandemic, poverty rates rose, domestic violence increased, and trust between the state and citizens eroded. Without following public health protocols and getting vaccinated, the COVID butterfly effect could cause the system’s collapse, leading to intensified social unrest. The same is true of climate change and how it affects mankind. Global geopolitical risks are multiplied by its power.

A result of population growth and declining water resources, climate change can cause rapid and radical changes in the economies and demographics of affected countries. Rising demand for fossil fuels, minerals, and other resources as well as shifting global demand patterns have wide-ranging consequences, including social disputes, economic decline, border conflicts and migration dynamics. Global climate change is disrupting not just the earth’s climatic conditions, but also society’s fabric and causes destabilization throughout the world that in turn create situations that lead to civil unrest and instability. The butterfly flapped his wing yet again in March 2022.

The war in Ukraine has caused the largest refugee crisis since World War II, but another crisis has been lurking in the shadows. According to the New York Times, Russia and Ukraine export more than a quarter of the world’s wheat, feeding billions of people through bread, pasta and packaged foods. Other products provided by these countries include barley, sunflower seed oil, and corn.Yemen, for example, imports 90 percent of its food, including 50 percent of its wheat, wrote Carlo Petrini, founder of the International Slow Food Movement, in an opinion piece for World Crunch news magazine. The war in Ukraine has exacerbated Yemen’s already desperate situation, where more than half of its 15 million inhabitants currently face food insecurity.

PREPARATION vs CHAOS In the past two years, pandemic-related shipping disruptions and supply chain strains, converging disruptions, rising costs for farmers, and adverse weather have already sent food prices soarings. Now the war is threatening to push the price of the vital crop even higher and threaten to tip the food system into global crisis. Because agricultural commodity markets are global, any reduction in wheat supply could raise the price of wheat grown in other parts of the world, including Australia, Argentina, and the Midwest of the United States. The world is interconnected and fragile, and no one can predict how events will unfold. The Butterfly effect transcend states, borders, and political arrangements. It has a life of its own.

The importance of being prepared cannot be overstated. The butterfly effect is a major challenge today. Are there any ways to mitigate the unavoidable consequences of the butterfly effect how do governments prepare for the unexpected and what follows such events to minimise damage? What is the capacity of state and non-state institutions to predict the future with accuracy? Is it possible to manage risks caused by political and economic chain reactions? These are all important questions to consider.

The Avnon Group believes in contributing to building a securer and more sustainable future. While each company within the Avnon Group offers a diverse range of technologies and concepts, they share a common thread – homeland security and public safety. This unique synergy promotes and enhances collaboration, in-house R&D, and integration. With an eye to the future, we are pushing boundaries investing in R&D of existing and future technologies designed to support and empower our clients to adopt a proactive approach to anticipating and deterring threats and events. We assess risks, try to understand the chaos, and create technology concepts that empower governments, authorities and NGO’s with the capabilities to foresee potential threats and implement preventive measures to mitigate and manage events.

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