I have been speaking to several friends and colleagues lately about career choices, mine and theirs, weighing options and fretting about stability vs. risk, when and how to make a leap, and so on. When considering a major decision, I often think back to this article by the late Nico Colchester that I first read in the Economist a few years ago. "Comfortable sogginess" is something we all fall into from time to time, or all the time, but it risks regret over the life not lived.
Crunchiness brings wealth. Wealth leads to sogginess. Sogginess brings poverty. Poverty creates crunchiness. From this immutable cycle we know that to hang on to wealth, you must keep things crunchy.
Crunchy systems are those in which small changes have big effects leaving those affected by them in no doubt whether they are up or down, rich or broke, winning or losing, dead or alive. The going was crunchy for Captain Scott as he plodded southwards across the sastrugi. He was either on top of the snow-crust and smiling, or floundering thigh-deep. The farther south he marched the crunchier his predicament became.
Sogginess is comfortable uncertainty. The modern Scott is unsure how deeply he is in it. He can radio for an airlift, or drop in on an American early-warning station for a hot toddy. The richer a society becomes, the soggier its systems get. Light-switches no longer turn on or off: they dim.