Chat with us, powered by LiveChat US FOREIGN POLICY WEEK 1 REFLECTION 2 |

In thisreading reflection, write a couple of brief paragraphs (about 200 words total, but that isn’t strict) about one of the readings.

Summarize the main points of the reading and any prominent arguments/evidence used to support the evidence
Explainhow this reading relates to the course material (does it support something in lecture? is it an example of a general theory? does it advance an argument? etc.)
Describeyour personalanalytical andemotional (if you choose) reactions to the piece.

Again, this is meant to be an informal way for you to engage with the material.

1/16/2019 Be Forewarned: Your Knowledge is Decaying 1/3


Be Forewarned: Your Knowledge
is Decaying
by Samuel Arbesman

NOVEMBER 05, 2012

When was the last time you read one of your old textbooks? I bet it’s been awhile. But if you were to

compare the version you studied in school to the most recent edition currently in use — no matter

how recently you graduated — you’d find your version sorely outdated. You shouldn’t be surprised

by this: facts are changing all around us.

Whether it’s what we think is true — the nutritious value of certain foods, the status of Pluto as a

planet, or the number of chromosomes in a single human cell — or even the state of our

surroundings — the population of the planet, the fastest 100-meter dash, or the powers of particle

accelerators — our knowledge is in constant flux.

It turns out knowledge is a lot like radioactive atoms because it decays over time. And when we’re

dealing with large amount of facts and information, we can actually predict how long it will take for

it to spread or decay by applying the laws of mathematics. In fact, there’s even a field of science

called scientometrics that studies such things from a quantitative perspective. We now know that

there is a shape to how knowledge grows and how it spreads through a population. We can also

examine different branches of knowledge — medicine, sociology, etc. — and see how long it takes for

half of what we know in these fields to be overturned or rendered obsolete. For example, in the

fields of hepatitis and cirrhosis — medical fields related to diseases of the liver — researchers have

found that half of the knowledge was overturned in about 45 years.

1/16/2019 Be Forewarned: Your Knowledge is Decaying 2/3

Of course, some of what we learn will probably never change in our lifetime, such as the number of

continents. And some will change often, such as the number the stock market closed at yesterday.

But those aren’t the facts we should be worried about. We should be concerned most about the facts

that change slowly, the facts that change over the course of years or decades or an entire lifetime —

these are called mesofacts — and examples include everything from the populations of cities to what

dinosaurs looked like (they had feathers?).

We need to recognize that mesofacts are far more common than we may realize — but it’s not easy. In

hindsight they may seem obvious, but they’re not. Since mesofacts decay very slowly, we often fail

to recognize their change around us. This is a problem.

A friend of mine, for example, was speaking recently with an older hedge fund manager who began a

story with the following: “Since we all know that there are 4 billion people on the planet…” This is a

problem. This finance expert is dead wrong — in fact, he’s billions of people off (we’re now over

seven billio

Jorge Luis Borges


I remember him (I have no right to utter this sacred verb, only
one man on earth had that right and he is dead) with a dark pas-
sion flower in his hand, seeing it as no one has ever seen It, t~ough
he might look at it from the twilight of dawn till that of evenmg, a.
whole lifetime. I remember him, with his face tacIturn and
Indian-like and singularly remote, behind the cigarette. I remem-
ber (I think) his angular, leatherCbraiding hands. I remember near
those hands a mate gourd bearing the Uruguayan coat of arms; I
remember a yellow screen with a vague lake landscape m the
window of his house. I clearly remember hIs VOice: the sl?w,
resentful, nasal voice of the old· time dweller of the suburbs, with-
out the Italian sibilants we have today. I never saw hIm more than
three times; the last was in i887 … I find it very satisfactory
that all those who knew him should write about him; my testi-
mony will perhaps be the shortest and no doubt the poorest, but
not the most impartial in the volume you Will edit .. My deplorable
status as an Argentine will prevent me from indulgmg m a dithy-
ramb, an obligatory genre in Uruguay whenever the subject IS an
Uruguayan. Highbrow, city slicker, dude: Funes never spoke th,:se
injurious words, but I am sufficiently certain I rep:esented for hIm
those misfortunes. Pedro Leandro Ipuche has wntten that Funes
was a precursor of the supermen, “a vernacular and rustic Zara-
thustra'” I shall not debate the point, but one should not forget
that he ‘was also a kid from Fray Bentos, with certain incurable
limitations. .

My first memory of Funes is very perspicuous. I can see hIm on
an afternoon in March or February of the year i884- My father,

Translated by Tames E. Irby, From Labyrinths ,by Jorge LUis. ~orges,
Copyright © 1962, 1964 by New Directions. Repn~ted by penmSSlon of
the publisher, New Directions Publishing CorporatIon.

Funes the Memorious 149
that year, had taken me to spend the summer in Fray Bentos. I
was returning from the San Francisco ranch with my cousin
Bernardo Haedo. We were singing as we rode along and being on
horseback was not the only circumstance determining my happi-
ness. After a sultry day, an enormous s]ate~colored storm had
hidden the sky. It was urged On by a southern wind, the trees
were already going wild; I was afraid (I was hopeful) that the
elemental rain would take us by surprise in the open. We were
running a kind of race with the storm. We entered an aI1eyway
that sank down between two very high brick sidewalks. It had
suddenly got dark; I heard some rapid and almost secret footsteps
up above; I raised my eyes and saw a boy running along the nar-
row and broken path as if it were a narrow and broken waI1. I
remember his baggy gaucho trousers, his rope-soled shoes, I re-
member the cigarette in his hard face, against the now limitless
storm cloud. Bernardo cried to him unexpectedly: “Vhat time i

10 F O R E I G N A F F A I R S

FAR EED ZAKAR IA is the host of Fareed
Zakaria GPS, on CNN.

position—mishandled its hegemony and
abused its power, losing allies and
emboldening enemies. And now, under
the Trump administration, the United
States seems to have lost interest, indeed
lost faith, in the ideas and purpose that
animated its international presence for
three-quarters of a century.

U.S. hegemony in the post–Cold War
era was like nothing the world had
seen since the Roman Empire. Writers
are fond of dating the dawn of “the
American century” to 1945, not long after
the publisher Henry Luce coined the
term. But the post–World War II era
was quite di�erent from the post-1989
one. Even after 1945, in large stretches
of the globe, France and the United
Kingdom still had formal empires and
thus deep inÁuence. Soon, the Soviet
Union presented itself as a superpower
rival, contesting Washington’s inÁuence
in every corner of the planet. Remem-
ber that the phrase “Third World”
derived from the tripartite division of
the globe, the First World being the
United States and Western Europe, and
the Second World, the communist
countries. The Third World was every-
where else, where each country was
choosing between U.S. and Soviet
inÁuence. For much of the world’s
population, from Poland to China, the
century hardly looked American.

The United States’ post–Cold War
supremacy was initially hard to detect.
As I pointed out in The New Yorker in
2002, most participants missed it. In
1990, British Prime Minister Margaret
Thatcher argued that the world was
dividing into three political spheres,
dominated by the dollar, the yen, and the

The Self-
Destruction of
American Power
Washington Squandered the
Unipolar Moment

Fareed Zakaria

Sometime in the last two years, American hegemony died. The age of U.S. dominance was a brief,
heady era, about three decades marked
by two moments, each a breakdown
of sorts. It was born amid the collapse
of the Berlin Wall, in 1989. The end, or
really the beginning of the end, was
another collapse, that of Iraq in 2003,
and the slow unraveling since. But was
the death of the United States’ extraor-
dinary status a result of external causes,
or did Washington accelerate its own
demise through bad habits and bad
behavior? That is a question that will
be debated by historians for years to
come. But at this point, we have enough
time and perspective to make some
preliminary observations.

As with most deaths, many factors
contributed to this one. There were deep
structural forces in the international
system that inexorably worked against
any one nation that accumulated so much
power. In the American case, however,
one is struck by the ways in which
Washington—from an unprecedented















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8/20/2020 China’s National-Security Law Reaches Into Harvard, Princeton Classrooms – WSJ 1/6

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China’s National-Security Law Reaches Into
Harvard, Princeton Classrooms
Professors at elite U.S. universities turn to code names, warning labels to protect students

Part of the challenge is the growing list of subjects Beijing considers o�-limits, said Kerry Ratigan,
an assistant professor of political science at Amherst College.

Aug. 19, 2020 5�30 am ET

Lucy Craymer

Listen to this article
6 Minutes

The effect of the new national-security law that China imposed on Hong Kong is extending
far beyond the territory to American college campuses.

Classes at some elite universities will carry a warning label this fall: This course may
cover material considered politically sensitive by China. And schools are weighing
measures to try to shield students and faculty from prosecution by Chinese authorities.

At Princeton University, students in a Chinese politics class will use codes instead of
names on their work to protect their identities. At Amherst College a professor is

8/20/2020 China’s National-Security Law Reaches Into Harvard, Princeton Classrooms – WSJ 2/6

considering anonymous online chats so students can speak freely. And Harvard Business
School may excuse students from discussing politically sensitive topics if they are
worried about the risks.

The issue has become particularly pressing because at least the first semester at many
universities will be taught online, meaning some students from China and Hong Kong will
connect with their U.S. classmates via video links. Some academics fear the classes could
be recorded and ultimately end up in the hands of Chinese authorities.

Almost 370,000 Chinese students and roughly 7,000 from Hong Kong enrolled at U.S.
universities in the 2018-19 school year, and academics in the U.S. say they often opt to take
classes on Chinese law, culture and politics because they want to understand more about
their country and how the world views it.

“We cannot self-censor,” said Rory Truex, an assistant professor who teaches Chinese
politics at Princeton. “If we, as a Chinese teaching community, out of fear stop teaching
things like Tiananmen or Xinjiang or whatever sensitive topic the Chinese government
doesn’t want us talking about, if we cave, then we’ve lost.”

Distance Learni

Ju l y /Au g u s t 2 0 2 0 143

ALEXANDER C O OLEY is Claire Tow Professor of Political Science at Barnard College and
Director of Columbia University’s Harriman Institute.
DANIEL H. NEXON is an Associate Professor in the Department of Government and at the
Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.
They are the authors of Exit From Hegemony: The Unraveling of the American Global Order.

How Hegemony Ends
The Unraveling of American Power

Alexander Cooley and Daniel H. Nexon

Multiple signs point to a crisis in global order. The uncoordi-nated international response to the covid-19 pandemic, the resulting economic downturns, the resurgence of na-
tionalist politics, and the hardening of state borders all seem to herald
the emergence of a less cooperative and more fragile international
system. According to many observers, these developments underscore
the dangers of U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America first” policies
and his retreat from global leadership.

Even before the pandemic, Trump routinely criticized the value of
alliances and institutions such as nato, supported the breakup of the
European Union, withdrew from a host of international agreements and
organizations, and pandered to autocrats such as Russian President Vlad-
imir Putin and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He has questioned
the merits of placing liberal values such as democracy and human rights
at the heart of foreign policy. Trump’s clear preference for zero-sum,
transactional politics further supports the notion that the United States
is abandoning its commitment to promoting a liberal international order.

Some analysts believe that the United States can still turn this
around, by restoring the strategies by which it, from the end of World
War II to the aftermath of the Cold War, built and sustained a suc-
cessful international order. If a post-Trump United States could re-
claim the responsibilities of global power, then this era—including
the pandemic that will define it—could stand as a temporary aberra-
tion rather than a step on the way to permanent disarray.

Alexander Cooley and Daniel H. Nexon

144 f o r e i g n a f f a i r s

After all, predictions of American decline and a shift in interna-
tional order are far from new—and they have been consistently wrong.
In the middle of the 1980s, many analysts believed that U.S. leadership
was on the way out. The Bretton Woods system had collapsed in the
1970s; the United States faced increasing competition from European
and East Asian economies, notably West Germany and Japan; and the
Soviet Union looked like an enduring feature of world politics. By the
end of 1991, however, the Soviet Union had formally dissolved, Japan
was entering its “lost decade” of economic stagnation, and the expen-
sive task of integration consumed a reunified Germany. The United
States experienced a decade of booming technological innovation and
unexpectedly high economic

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