July 26, 2014

Globally concentrating on the knowledge of the knowledgeable, renouncing to knowledge diversity, represents a huge systemic risk.

Sir, I refer to Gillian Tett “Chess in cyberspace: a smart move?” July 26. I am not a chess player, and I have not really been impacted by Fischer and Spassky playing chess on TV, or by “Deep Blue” beating Kasparov... and so I might be out on a limb here.

I agree with Tett that it is sad that globalization of competition has dramatically reduced the possibilities like singing Queen’s “We are the Champions” with true emotion, as clearly “We are the local champions” does not have the same ring to it.

But, it is when Gillian Tett describes how “parents are tapping the most brilliant brains in places such as India, Bulgaria or Moscow, to deliver online tutorials for their offspring via Skype”, that I get most concerned, because it is another example of a global concentration on the knowledge of the knowledgeable, which could in the end lead us to miss out on some really important knowledge diversity.

And frankly let us look at what has happened in the area of bank regulations since someone (not me), decided we should concentrate the most brilliant regulatory brains in the Basel Committee, and these most brilliant brains with too much hubris decided they could act as risk managers for the world, and on top of that decided to delegate much of that role into some few brilliant brains of some few credit rating agencies. As had to be expected, catastrophe ensued!

And now our banks are becoming riskier by the day, as their balances become more packed up with fewer and fewer assets deemed as absolutely safe, and without them being allowed the benefits of diversifying among the risky.

A decade ago, I told my colleague Executive Directors at the World Bank that if, by lottery, they would substitute for one of us with a plumber or a registered nurse, also picked by lottery we would be a much wiser Board. Of course that, in a mutual admiration club, was not too well received… but I still hold it to be true… even to become truer by the day.