Monthly Archives: November 2017

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions – Redux

Living in the Age of Pre-conditioned Paradigm Fail

First, from Kuhn:

Chronologically, Kuhn distinguishes between various phases.

Phase 1- It exists only once and is the pre-paradigm phase, in which there is no consensus on any particular theory. This phase is characterized by several incompatible and incomplete theories. Consequently, most scientific inquiry takes the form of lengthy books, as there is no common body of facts that may be taken for granted. If the actors in the pre-paradigm community eventually gravitate to one of these conceptual frameworks and ultimately to a widespread consensus on the appropriate choice of methodsterminology and on the kinds of experiment that are likely to contribute to increased insights.[10]

Phase 2- Normal science begins, in which puzzles are solved within the context of the dominant paradigm. As long as there is consensus within the discipline, normal science continues. Over time, progress in normal science may reveal anomalies, facts that are difficult to explain within the context of the existing paradigm.[11] While usually these anomalies are resolved, in some cases they may accumulate to the point where normal science becomes difficult and where weaknesses in the old paradigm are revealed.[12]

Phase 3- If the paradigm proves chronically unable to account for anomalies, the community enters a crisis period. Crises are often resolved within the context of normal science. However, after significant efforts of normal science within a paradigm fail, science may enter the next phase.[13]

Phase 4- Paradigm shift, or scientific revolution, is the phase in which the underlying assumptions of the field are reexamined and a new paradigm is established.[14]

Phase 5- Post-Revolution, the new paradigm's dominance is established and so scientists return to normal science, solving puzzles within the new paradigm.[15]

Following the chronology from Reagan to Obama, our government (and thus aiding the learning curve of others) realized its utility expanded in the anomalies outlined above. In other words, policy implementation accelerated under 'crisis management.' This idea was then twisted by the out of power party (the Democrats) into a guidebook cloaked as a critique called The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein. Hence, institutions perpetuate a Phase 3 state, exiting the established paradigm but never solidifying the new.

The last year has brought the idea of living in the Paradigm Fail to clearer focus. Policies are cast aside for the casting not necessarily the replacing. The Fed has seen its policy implementation morph under the same Paradigm Fail Phase. The policy debate remains stuck on the actions taken over the last 8 years and now, their unwinding. Little discussion emerges on what the post- unwind structure will look like, nor what its guiding principles would be. Reloading before the next crisis appears to be a thought.

The next crisis will not require the same remedy. The series of events from 1983 to present that define the Age of Paradigm Fail did result in enormous and sometimes radical policy implementation in Monetary, Geo-political and Social arenas.

Kuhn did not see societies getting stuck in or between Phases.

A science may go through these cycles repeatedly, though Kuhn notes that it is a good thing for science that such shifts do not occur often or easily.

"A good thing?" That's a value judgement. The revolution is the status quo. The VIX is the anomaly and the screaming proof of getting stuck in a failed paradigm. When fear and chaos are the normality, their "gage" is calibrated too low.