Saturday, May 31, 2014

Is Russia the Most Antifragile State?

This thought is almost a year too late, but with Edward Snowden bubbling up again slightly in the news, it seems relevant. Snowden's decision to exile himself to Russia was driven mostly by short-term necessity--Russia's government had favorable extradition policies, antagonistic political relationships with his enemies, and a strong military. But in the abstract, did he make an optimal decision given he may very well never be able to leave Russia? In other words, if you had to live out your life in just one country, where would you go?

Over a 40ish-year-long time horizon, predicting the conditions in a country becomes really tough. Instead, the best way to answer the question is probably to look at the degree to which living in a country contributes to your overall resilience in lifestyle. So I wouldn't necessarily look at current growth trends and pick China, for example, because its internal risks (political and cultural instability) and external risks (war with the West) are high.

The best answer would seem to be the US--it's big, diverse, historically open to cultural and political reinvention, and with a huge military and economy. But if the US taken off the table, what next? Russia seems like a pretty good option. Given the tremendous uncertainty over the next 40 years, Russia is almost uniquely placed among large countries by having a foot in both Europe and Asia. This means if you're stuck in Russia for the rest of your life, you could reposition to whatever side is doing better in the game of civilization. Add to this the fact that Russia has lots of remote area, perfect for small survivalist communities under various doomsday scenarios (robots, pandemics etc.).

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