The Plateau Effect

In many natural processes, most notably physiological, there is such a thing as the "plateau effect."   At lower doses of a stimulus, the systems responds to it proportionally (usually linearly or sigmoidally).  However, after the dose of the stimulus exceeds certain critical threshold, no further increase would result in the increased system’s response.  The system is said to have reached a "plateau."  In other words, the system has shut off. 

Russia’s response to the Western criticism of its behavior seems to have reached such a plateau.  Take, for example, the mysterious death of Alexander Litvinenko.  Back in November 2006, almost every major Western media outlet has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin in ordering Litvinenko’s murder.  The absurdity of this accusation — completely baseless from the judicial point of view, not to mention simple common sense — was so obvious that it inevitably prevented any rational Russian response to offers of cooperation in finding the perpetrators.  The dose of the applied stimulus was so deliberately high that the system was thrown onto the plateau even without going through the stage of the proportional response.   

Now the very same Western outlets (The Washington Post and The New York Times naturally being among them) fret about Russia’s refusal to extradite to the UK Andrey Lugovoy, whom the Scotland Yard has indicted for the crime.  Russian authorities mumble about the Constitution which prevents extraditing Russian citizen, they parry with the names of Boris Berezovsky and Akhmed Zakayev, whose extradition to Russia have been blocked by British courts.  But the real point is this: after everything that has been said about Russia’s involvement into the Litvinenko case, criticism about Lugovoy is too low of a dose for the system to react.  The system has shut off. 

One of the most puzzling aspects of the Litvinenko’s murder (if it was a murder) is why the killers used a dose of radioactive polonium that was at least 100 times in excess of the lethal.  In their going straight to the "plateau" doses of the poison, Litvinenko’s killers (if they exist) remind my some Western journalists writing about Russia.   

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
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