Henry Farrell Profile picture
@himself.bsky.social and @henryfarrell@mastodon.social for talk - this account broadcast only. Underground Empire: How America Weaponized the World Economy .
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Jun 21, 2023 16 tweets 4 min read
1. economist.com/by-invitation/… So Cosma Shalizi and I have a piece in the Economist on shoggoths. The Large Language Models driving ChatGPT and Bing are indeed Lovecraftian monsters. But so too are markets, bureaucracies, and even democracy, if squinted at askance. Image 2. The idea is straightforward. Like @AlisonGopnik we don't see LLMs as analogous to individual human intelligences. Instead, they're "cultural technologies" - systems for summarizing human created knowledge and making it useful. This puts the shoggoth meme in a different context
Jun 20, 2023 17 tweets 4 min read
1. circabc.europa.eu/rest/download/… The EU just published its new "Economic Security Strategy." It talks a lot about the "weaponization of economic dependencies" - adapting @ANewman_forward and my term "weaponized interdependence." We explain how this came about in amzn.to/3kb8FTn 2. As the Strategy puts it, the EU faces new threats that it didn't see "only a few shorts [sic] year ago" (the misprint in the document's first sentence is revealing - the text was still being negotiated last night ft.com/content/392444… ).
May 25, 2023 11 tweets 4 min read
1. So "Underground Empire," by @ANewman_forward and I is coming out in September - amzn.to/3kb8FTn . It's awesome! Starred review in Publisher's Weekly. Blurbs from great people like Kim Stanley Robinson. And if you're teaching in fall, you should assign it. Here's why. 2. If you're a political science/economics/international relations professor with a big undergraduate class on global politics and economy, you're likely looking for a book that can tell your students what is happening in the world. You won't find many good choices.
Nov 16, 2022 11 tweets 4 min read
On the report that Yale is pulling out of the US News and World Report rankings, lots of good stuff on the role these rankings play in Wendy Espeland and Michael Sauder's book, Engines of Anxiety. jstor.org/stable/10.7758… 1. No-one at first imagined that these rankings would become the big deal that they are. The notoriously odious Mort Zuckerman introduced them on a hunch. But they started playing a role in law firms' hiring decisions. Image
Oct 29, 2022 9 tweets 3 min read
1. So @adam_tooze has joined the FT as contributing editor, and his first piece is on the "polycrisis," a term for a disparate and intersecting set of regional and global shocks that he has helped popularize ft.com/content/498398… . Earlier this week, I tried to coin my own term 2. trying to turn a joke into something that - very loosely - gets at something about the world we're in. The term is "polyshambles" - not only does it owe a lot to Adam, but it began in a Twitter joke responding to something he had said.
Oct 26, 2022 26 tweets 7 min read
1. A thread responding to this retort - which you should of course read to get the full sense. The response is - likely unsurprisingly - polemic (there is a lot at stake in the Tornado Cash case, both politically and financially). I'll try not to be polemic in response. 2. and nb - this is me responding, not @schneierblog, who may or may not agree. So here goes. As I read it, @valkenburgh primary problem is that he thinks that the term 'golem' is polemic and doesn't correctly characterize Tornado Cash. Instead, he characterizes it as a mere tool
Oct 25, 2022 20 tweets 6 min read
1. A thread explaining what is important about the new export controls on China. NB that (a) I am not a lawyer, and (b) what I know, I have gotten from talking to people who are far better versed than I am, so credit them for the good stuff, and blame me for any mistakes. 2. The first thing to understand is that the export control regs are being adapted to do things that they were not really designed to do. They were primarily designed to _stop exports from the US._ They used to be one part of a broader Cold War panoply of institutions.
Oct 24, 2022 4 tweets 3 min read
From @MonaAli_NY_US at the @DeanRuskIntLaw workshop on the law of global economic statecraft - “if sanctions are the iron fist of the weaponized economy, swap lines are the velvet glove.” Great, grim, pithy formulation. The US, by using sanctions based on the dollar system, can create de facto international law. It is no longer clear what the ruling norms are, as smaller clubs of countries use sanctions. @njtmulder at the @DeanRuskIntLaw workshop on the law of global economic statecraft.
Oct 18, 2022 16 tweets 5 min read
1. @alanbeattie writes about how his view of globalization has moved a bit, citing @ANewman_forward and myself as "twin gurus" (yikes!). ft.com/content/977865… His argument points to a useful distinction in how we think about global networks. 2. Crudely summarizing his argument (and I hope getting it mostly right) - it's that we can think about two challenges to globalization. One is traditional non-targeted shocks to globalization - like coronavirus. Here, he is still pretty bullish on globalization.
Oct 13, 2022 24 tweets 6 min read
1. "The question is whether the First Amendment covers golems." I feel as though my entire intellectual career has been leading up to that sentence, which is in my and @schneierblog new piece at @lawfareblog on how to think about cryptocurrency DAOs lawfareblog.com/tornado-cash-n… 2. Our argument is straightforward (or at least as straightforward as arguments about complex things can be). DAOs - Decentralized Autonomous Organizations - are a new way of organizing economic activity. They're made out of computer code, and usually run on Ethereum.
Oct 12, 2022 20 tweets 8 min read
1. Six stories in the last few days about the weaponization of the world economy. It's very strange for @ANewman_forward and me to see the logic of our 2019 article (and forthcoming book - Underground Empire - Holt 2023) playing out. direct.mit.edu/isec/article-a… 2. First our "I invented the Torment Nexus as a cautionary tale" moment. From Chris Miller's brand new, and highly recommended book on the geopolitics of semiconductors, Chip Wars ( amzn.to/3RQ8kAd ), a shot: Image
Sep 29, 2022 16 tweets 3 min read
1. A speculative thread on the question of who sabotaged Nord Stream 1. Building off this @EmmaMAshford thread but in a different direction - if no-one seems to have an obvious motive, are there other ways to narrow down the possibilities? 2. Very tentatively - yes. We can ask (1) who has a sufficiently chaotic policy process to do things that are not obviously in their interests, and (2) who would suffer least if they were found out.
Sep 20, 2022 22 tweets 4 min read
1. I don't have any practical solutions for this problem. All I have is a way of thinking about it (mostly borrowed from others). Short version is that there is a way to think about democratic politics that isn't either procedural fetishism or complete power-moves-nihilism. 2. The problem - pushing back one step into social science abstraction - is one of norms. Norms are implicit rules about what you do, and also what you don't do. Usually, they have some sense of appropriateness - when a norm is violated, people who hold it are angry/weirded out.
Aug 31, 2022 13 tweets 4 min read
1. @ANewman_forward @jerometenk and myself have an article in the centennial issue of @ForeignAffairs on fully automated data driven authoritarianism. foreignaffairs.com/world/spirals-… Pundits argue that AI allows authoritarian rulers to reliably monitor/manipulate citizens. We disagree. 2. Short version - the problems that AI/ML pose for democracies are highly visible (and sometimes exaggerated). The problems that AI/ML pose for autocracies are less visible, but arguably far more serious and corrosive.
Jun 28, 2022 19 tweets 5 min read
1. A thread with trepidation - I'm no more a real expert on what works in retail politics than the next person. But the inability of Democratic leadership to do more than hand down nostrums about the Court's abortion ruling suggests they aren't doing great either. So here goes. 2. The argument I see online is one between people arguing that the Democrats need to do something to show they're serious, and Democrat leaders sotto voce suggesting there is nothing they can actually do now, given actually existing political barriers. Neither is wrong. But ...
May 31, 2022 10 tweets 3 min read
My first approximation is that this is asking the much less important question. Should people have been surprised by Russia invading Ukraine? Maybe not, but I’m guessing that few of the people mentioned had very strong priors on the topic. The more interesting and perhaps in the long term more important surprise is the EU reaction (which looks to me to significantly contradict the strong implied suggestion IR community underestimates the extent to which Europeans are cowards who are "full of folly."
May 9, 2022 13 tweets 6 min read
1. "Weak links in finance and supply chains are easily weaponized." @ANewman_forward and I at @Nature setting out a new research agenda.
nature.com/articles/d4158… 2. Our argument is straightforward. As we argued in our 2019 Weaponized Interdependence article in @Journal_IS , centralization creates chokepoints, which powerful states can use to cut firms, people even countries out of the global economy. direct.mit.edu/isec/article-a…
May 9, 2022 6 tweets 2 min read
The speed with which the EU has moved from Those Unilateral US Actions Threaten The World Economy!, to Our Banking System, Your Problem, is impressive, for certain quite limited values of impressive. “I would be very much in favour because it is full of logic.” "The idea of seizing Russian foreign exchange reserves would mark a dramatic move that would probably alarm other governments with strained relations with the EU and its partners. " well yes. The FT way of politely saying This is Such a Fucking Stupid Idea.
May 6, 2022 10 tweets 4 min read
1. Thanks to @c_hoeffler, a Marshall McLuhan moment, where @ANewman_forward and I are in the weird and somewhat uncomfortable position of being "Annie Hall" Marshall McLuhan. The annual EU State of the Union conference is happening at @EUI_EU today - 2. The EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, @JosepBorrellF responded to a question by saying "That’s what we call the weaponization of interdependences" and explaining what it meant. Our 2019 article has turned into a catchphrase direct.mit.edu/isec/article-a…
Apr 21, 2022 15 tweets 3 min read
1. Glad that Nils alerted me to this, but it seems to me to be a tutelary example of how some economists’ sweet tooth for functionalist explanations can get them into intellectual trouble. The underlying idea is what might be described as Kindleberger, But For Sanctions. 2. And Kindleberger is a great economist! But his account of US hegemony is very functionalist - the U.S. behaves as it does in the global economic system, because the system needs it to. Sometimes you need a benign tyrant to crack heads and force other countries to solve crises.
Apr 17, 2022 11 tweets 4 min read
[thread] Responding to Michael’s question - which 5-10 readings (a) by social scientists and (b) relatively unknown among non-social scientists are fundamental? My starting list (which reflects all my own biases and reading failures - take this as an invitation to correct). 1. Jane Jacobs (as Michael says), The Death and Life of American Cities amzn.to/3EmWXe4 . He hadn't heard of it before coming across it at Crooked Timber - that suggests that many other well read people haven't come across it either. Essential on civic life.