Embedded Growth Obligations
Embedded growth obligations (EGOs) are structures built into institutions in times of growth that assume growth will continue. An institution must therefore grow to meet its EGOs, or its leaders must lie about the presence of growth. This compromising of incentives causes institutions to tend towards exploitative or sociopathic behaviors, as their leaders face selective pressures to maintain the status quo. Eric Weinstein first publicly introduced the idea in his first appearance on The Rubin Report on January 6, 2017.
Embedded growth obligations became prevalent during the broad, technology-led economic growth following World War II.
Historian of science Derek de Solla Price first mapped embedded growth obligations in his 1961 book Science Since Babylon, where he noticed that science was on an exponential trajectory that could not reasonably be sustained.
- Pension plans
- Social security
- Corporate ladders
- Student loans for higher education
Eric Twitter Threads
Eric Weinstein contends that the embedded growth obligations are generative (parents) of major problems in modern society, and that these are a specific instantiation of institutional derangement due to embedded growth obligations.
- H1B Visas as a mechanism to suppress STEM wages
- Manipulation of Consumer Price Index
- Student debt crisis
- Mask and PPE shortages in the Coronavirus pandemic as a result of institutional failures
- String Theory as a dead-end in physics
- The reproducibility crisis in the social sciences
- Campaign finance corruption and unfairness
Embedded Growth Obligations are the way in which institutions plan their future predicated on legacies of growth. And since the period between the end of World War II in 1945 and the early 70s had such an unusually beautiful growth regime, many of our institutions became predicated upon low-variance technology-led, stable, broadly distributed growth. Now, this is a world we have not seen in an organic way since the early 1970s, and yet, because it was embedded in our institutions, what we have is a world in which the expectation is still present in the form of an embedded growth obligation. That is, the pension plans, the corporate ladders, are all still built very much around a world that has long since vanished.
We have effectively become a Growth Cargo Cult. That is, once upon a time, planes used to land in the Pacific, let's say, during World War II, and Indigenous people looked at the air strips and the behavior of the air traffic controllers, and they've been mimicking those behaviors in the years since as ritual, but the planes no longer land. Well, in large measure, our institutions are built for a world in which growth doesn't happen in the same way anymore.
"We have effectively entered a period in which we cannot trust our experts. I think that what began as a desire to contribute and to do real work, ended with an understanding that we’ve got two generations of institutional experts that are corrupted, and that we cannot wake up from this crazy fever dream that we’re all in, because we can’t figure out who we can still trust.
The doctors are compromised. The professors are compromised. The Journalists are compromised. The politicians are compromised.
About the only thing that isn’t badly compromised are people with an independent source of sustenance — individuals and very small groups are about the only thing that is free of this disease of the Embedded Growth Obligation (EGO)."
Eventually, this page should be a fuller explanation of EGO, but for the time being here are a few links to things we were able to find doing a Google Search.