“The only surprise about the economic crisis of 2008 was that it came as a surprise to so many.”

— Joseph Stiglitz

“History reminds us that dictators and despots arise during times of severe economic crisis.”

— Robert Kiyosaki

“In a complex system such as our world today, this is all it might take for the overall system to become destabilized, leading to a collapse.”

— Eric H. Cline

“Ants have the most complicated social organization on earth next to humans.”

— E. O. Wilson

“A blueprint for disaster in any society is when the elite are capable of insulating themselves.”

— Jared Diamond, author of Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed 2011.

“What is important is that complex systems, richly cross-connected internally, have complex behaviors, and that these behaviors can be goal-seeking in complex patterns.

— William Ross Ashby

“Collapse is recurrent in human history; it is global in its occurrence… A complex society that has collapsed is suddenly smaller, simpler, less stratified, and less socially differentiated. Specialization decreases and there is less centralized control. The flow of information drops, people trade and interact less, and there is overall lower coordination among individuals and groups… Population levels tend to drop, and for those who are left the known world shrinks.”

— Joseph Tainter, American anthropologist and historian,  ‘The Collapse of Complex Societies’ 1988.

“Managers are not confronted with problems that are independent of each other, but with dynamic situations that consist of complex systems of changing problems that interact with each other. I call such situations messes. Problems are extracted from messes by analysis. Managers do not solve problems, they manage messes.”

— Russell L. Ackoff

“The World is a very complex system. It is easy to have too simple a view of it, and it is easy to do harm and to make things worse under the impulse to do good and make things better.”

— Kenneth E. Boulding

“Most economists, like doctors, are reluctant to make predictions, and those who make them are seldom accurate. The economy, like the human body, is a highly complex system whose workings are not thoroughly understood.”

— Alice Rivlin

Do you sense the tension, the closeness of something very big happening? Very large complex systems do not always reach a point of total collapse. Instead, they may simply break apart in completely unpredictable ways. Is our world system possibly near such a breaking point? How can we tell? What happens when a world system breaks?

I read so many reports of others feeling similarly. Lots of theories about what may be happening, but none that I find truly credible. Just feelings of many flavors. Forebodings, more accurately.

Very large complex systems like our world behave in their own ways. In many cases, some components of the system may decide to behave badly and try to force certain situations and outcomes. The world system will treat these efforts as internal disturbances – and it will do its own thing regardless.

Is there a time at which such systems reach a breaking point? What is a “breaking point”? Is it a total collapse of some kind? What does “total collapse” mean in the context of our world? There are 8 billion or so of us world-system components who mostly don’t want the system to collapse, whatever “collapse” may mean in reality.

What is a system “breaking point”?

A system breaking point in my understanding is a point in the current situation where a major change occurs. Maybe collapse, whatever this may mean, but more likely just some major change of system state. At this point, the system structure and/or some of its major components change in nature – hugely.

Systems have inherent states of pressure, tension, disruption. Various components and structures work to retain stability and order for their own purposes. Nothing much happens so long as these are in at least a rough equilibrium.

Eventually, the forces of change may overcome the system’s internal forces of stability and order. Then, something in the system changes, greatly. Interconnections break, many interdependencies weaken or vanish.

The system at this point “breaks” in major and irreversible ways. The system then reconfigures itself around its new environment and situations – in unpredictable ways. For us world system components, everything is abruptly different. Abruptly in this context means breaking.

Are we at or very close to such a breaking change in our world system state?

Many people, aka us world system components, have strong feelings that this is the case. Something very big is happening today, or is just about to happen. Gut feelings, not logical.

Do you have a deep sense of something big happening, breaking? Soon, very soon? I sure do, and many others that I read seem to have this sense also.

World systems, aka empires, have collapsed regularly throughout history. Has our turn come?
World systems, aka empires, have collapsed regularly throughout history. Has our turn come?

This “breaking point” change isn’t collapse but restructuring

Fear-mongers of various flavors like to warn of collapses of various flavors. Some people believe them. The “collapse” in so many cases is nothing more than a collapse of their various schemes. The underlying system remains, mostly intact, but is often changed in major ways.

Human systems are incredibly adaptable. If they weren’t, we would almost certainly not be here to complain. The world system has reached its breaking point so many times in history, and yet it persists. Changed, yes; Collapsed, no.

Collapse seems to refer to some major aspects of the world system breaking down completely and even vanishing. Look at the fate of the Roman Empire. From rulers over much of the world, Romans stumbled into their empire’s collapse around 460 AD. Ignoring of course the Eastern Empire department that managed somehow to bumble along for another thousand years before being taken over by the Ottomans (no collapse here).

Civilizations don’t collapse, it seems. They just change state in major ways. Some participants may feel the state change as collapse, while others may see things as a great improvement. Collapse and breaking points may well be personal views of current happenings. The world continues in its own way, without concern for its various groups of current inhabitants.

So, the world isn’t going to break

The world is going to experience great changes, as it has since people were invented. Breaks in general are simply major changes of state. The world system itself continues. Only its inhabitants regard the changes as “collapse” or “breaking”. Aren’t you relieved?

No? Well, neither am I.

Whatever one calls the huge changes we are experiencing – collapses or breaks, we are today undergoing something very major and with a long-term outcome. As in permanent.

Fortunately, we have some wonderful studies of civilizations, or societies if you prefer, collapsing from a point of greatness. Here is one of my favorites:

Joseph Tainter and The Collapse of Complex Societies

Anthropologist Joseph Tainter in 1988 published his theory of societal collapse in The Collapse of Complex Societies where he:

“… examines the collapse of Maya and Chacoan civilizations, and of the Western Roman Empire, in terms of network theory, energy economics and complexity theory. Tainter argues that sustainability or collapse of societies follow from the success or failure of problem-solving institutions and that societies collapse when their investments in social complexity and their energy subsidies reach a point of diminishing marginal returns. He recognizes collapse when a society involuntarily sheds a significant portion of its complexity.”

From Wikipedia:

Social complexity.
As described in Tainter’s Collapse of Complex Societies, societies become more complex as they try to solve problems. Social complexity can be recognized by numerous differentiated and specialized social and economic roles and many mechanisms through which they are coordinated, and by reliance on symbolic and abstract communication, and the existence of a class of information producers and analysts who are not involved in primary resource production. Such complexity requires a substantial ‘energy’ subsidy (meaning the consumption of resources, or other forms of wealth).”

“When a society confronts a ‘problem,’ such as a shortage of energy, or difficulty in gaining access to it, it tends to create new layers of bureaucracy, infrastructure, or social class to address the challenge. Tainter, who first identifies seventeen examples of rapid collapse of societies, applies his model to three case studies: The Western Roman Empire, the Maya civilization, and the Chaco culture.”

“For example, as Roman agricultural output slowly declined and population increased, per-capita energy availability dropped. The Romans ‘solved’ this problem by conquering their neighbors to appropriate their energy surpluses (as metals, grain, slaves, other materials of value). However, as the Empire grew, the cost of maintaining communications, garrisons, civil government, etc. grew with it. Eventually, this cost grew so great that any new challenges such as invasions and crop failures could not be solved by the acquisition of more territory.”

“Intense, authoritarian efforts to maintain cohesion by Domitian and Constantine the Great only led to an ever greater strain on the population. The empire was split into two halves, of which the western soon fragmented into smaller units. The eastern half, being wealthier, was able to survive longer, and did not collapse but instead succumbed slowly and piecemeal, because unlike the western empire it had powerful neighbors able to take advantage of its weakness [emphasis added].”

“It is often assumed that the collapse of the western Roman Empire was a catastrophe for everyone involved. Tainter points out that it can be seen as a very rational preference of individuals at the time, many of whom were actually better off. Tainter notes that in the west, local populations in many cases greeted the barbarians as liberators.”

Source: Amazon.
Source: Amazon.

Sir John Glubb and The Fate of Empires

British soldier, scholar, and author John Glubb wrote a brief monograph on the approximate lifespan of various empires: “The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival (1978)”:

“‘The only thing we learn from history,’ it has been said, ‘is that men never learn from history’, a sweeping generalization perhaps, but one which the chaos in the world today goes far to confirm. What then can be the reason why, in a society which claims to probe every problem, the bases of history are still so completely unknown?”

“To derive any useful instruction from history, it seems to me essential first of all to grasp the principle that history, to be meaningful, must be the history of the human race. For history is a continuous process, gradually developing, changing and turning back, but in general moving forward in a single mighty stream. Any useful lessons to be derived must be learned by the study of the whole flow of human development, not by the selection of short periods here and there in one country or another. Every age and culture is derived from its predecessors, adds some contribution of its own, and passes it on to its successors. If we boycott various periods of history, the origins of the new cultures which succeeded them cannot be explained.”

Tainter's empires lifespans.

“This list calls for certain comments.
(1) The present writer is exploring the facts, not trying to prove anything. The dates given are largely arbitrary. Empires do not usually begin or end on a certain date. There is normally a gradual period of expansion and then a period of decline. The resemblance in the duration of these great powers may be queried. Human affairs are subject to many chances, and it is not to be expected that they could be calculated with mathematical accuracy.”

I find it fascinating that the lives of empires have been on average about 250 years, and with a fairly narrow range of variation. The United States, which began with a revolution in 1776, is 247 years old as of 2023. It is fading visibly, perhaps in accordance with Glubb’s duration estimates. Glubb’s Law?

Is the U.S. Empire in a state of collapse?

If true, then what year might have been our “breaking point” as a nation or society? The Civil War of 1860-1865? That war just prevented a group of states from breaking away from the Union. World War II? The U.S. was greatly responsible (along with the Soviet Union) for the WW II victory in 1945 over Germany, Italy, and various nasty friends. Kind of an empire high point – a “top”?

Some might argue that the real “breaking point” was the 1971 decision to break the connection between the dollar and gold. The Federal Reserve Bank dollar, a Note or IOU, then became the nation’s fiat currency – backed by promises, just like virtually every other IOU.

I have noted a number of times that the U.S. dollar in terms of purchasing power for a constant basket of goods has declined by about 98% since the Fed, a private corporation owned by major banks, was founded in 1913. This may reflect a nation in slow but steady decline, certainly not a “breaking point” collapse.

Pretty clearly, to me at least, the U.S. along with much of the world is in a state of significant decline. Not collapse, unless you define collapse as a decline. In this case, the “breaking point” would be the peak or top of the state’s prosperity and general happiness.

By this decline definition, the peak was post-WWII – somewhere between 1945 and 1971. Vietnam War (1955-1975), JFK assassination (1963), and the end of dollar convertibility in gold (1971) probably marked serious bumps in the road. They may in fact have signaled a broad top in the formerly good times.

I have written a number of times about the Strauss-Howe theory of cyclical generational behavior patterns, or saecula – roughly the length of a human lifetime, or about 80 years. Each saeculum has four, 20-year phases or turnings: growth, maturation, entropy, and rebirth. The “turnings” are: “The High”, “The Awakening”, “The Unraveling” and “The Crisis”.

William Strauss & Neil Howe: Generational Theory.
William Strauss & Neil Howe: Generational Theory.

You will note that, according to the S-H theory, we are presently nearing the end of the latest Fourth Turning – Crisis phase. This phase features major, typically adverse, events as well as general chaos. Very unhappy times, but not a collapse except in the long-term decline (of empire) sense.

So, are we really facing a major event or situation – a breaking point?

I still cannot shake the feeling that something huge is about to happen. Perhaps you also. Not collapse in any respect except as a consequence of whatever huge event or situation happens.

“Deagel is a private online source for the military capabilities of the world’s nation-states. It recently released a shocking five-year forecast. The report analyzes countries by projected population size, GDP, defense budget, and more.”

“I’ve got to say that I wasn’t familiar with Deagel—it keeps a low profile. Deagel is in the same business as Jane’s—which has been in the business of analyzing weapons systems for many decades. A look at the Deagel website, which is quite sophisticated, makes it clear we’re not dealing with some blogger concocting outrageous clickbait. It seems to be well-connected with defense contractors and government agencies like the CIA.”

“They’ve predicted that about 70% of the US population, and about the same percentage in Europe, is going to disappear by 2025. It’s hard to believe that anybody in their position would make a forecast like that.”

“… But for the last several years, I’ve been saying that World War III would basically be a biological war. Of course, it will have substantial conventional, nuclear, space-based, and AI/computer elements as well, but its most serious component will be biological. Essentially, it will involve the use of bacteria and viruses to wipe out the enemy. The odds are that it will be between the US and China.”

Hmm … World War III – not as a nuclear devastation, which leaves most everything in radioactive rubble and uninhabitable, but a war employing targeted use of biologicals. Biologicals target people rather than infrastructure.

This sort of nastiness has been caused by Mother Nature in past. Via Wikipedia:

“The Black Death (also known as the Pestilence, the Great Mortality or the Plague) was a bubonic plague pandemic occurring in Western Eurasia and North Africa from 1346 to 1353. It is the most fatal pandemic recorded in human history, causing the deaths of approximately 40% to 60% of the region’s population (an estimated 25–50 million people) peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351.”

And more recently, again from Wikipedia:

“The 1918–1920 flu pandemic, also known as the Great Influenza epidemic or by the common misnomer Spanish flu, was an exceptionally deadly global influenza pandemic caused by the H1N1 influenza A virus. The earliest documented case was March 1918 in the state of Kansas in the United States, with further cases recorded in France, Germany and the United Kingdom in April. Two years later, nearly a third of the global population, or an estimated 500 million people, had been infected in four successive waves. Estimates of deaths range from 17 million to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in history.”

So, a huge population decrease is actually possible – caused by biological agents, both natural and today potentially manmade. This would work best in a population already damaged by financial and economic collapse, lockdowns, and digital control of everyone.

Note especially the Deagel timeframe … “by 2025” … which probably means a 2024 rollout. We are rather close to 2024.

Deagel’s population prediction for the U.S. in 2025 showing a catastrophic drop from 316 million in 2013 to 69 million in 2025 (recently increased to about 100 million). Source.
Deagel’s population prediction for the U.S. in 2025 showing a catastrophic drop from 316 million in 2013 to 69 million in 2025 (recently increased to about 100 million). Source.

Bottom line:

If you, like myself, sense the tension, the closeness of something very big about to happen – it may well be due to our world truly having reached a breaking point of some kind. Not total collapse, or anything close to it, but just a point at which our world system begins to decline severely by breaking apart and reorganizing itself. This is what large, complex systems do after stresses and disturbances become overwhelming.

Empires, like the West dominated by the U.S., appear to have roughly 250-year lifespans on average. On this basis, the U.S. is around its lifespan year 247. Some terminating event or situation could be in our near future – 2024 in particular. Futurist Deagel.com predicted a catastrophic U.S. population drop to around 70-100 million by 2025 – from the present 325 million. This means that the crash would have to occur in the brief time remaining until 2025. Year 2024 would surely be a very, very bad year if the Deagel.com prediction is correct. We’ll find out rather soon.

“The foreign minister of Russia recently expressed a sentiment that has been weighing on the minds of many in Western nations in recent years: the West’s 500-year dominance on the world stage is drawing to an abrupt close.”

“Speaking to the Doha Forum in a video address, Sergey Lavrov explained that he was unable to attend the event in person and hear its discussions, ‘But I assume that you were discussing the multipolar world, which is emerging after 500 years of domination of what we call the ‘collective West.’’”

“Lavrov said that BRICS, ASEAN, African Union and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, among others, will form the building blocks of ‘the new polycentric world.’”

“He also took Western nations to task for how they gained their dominance, saying that it was ‘based on a diverse history, including ruthless exploitation of peoples and territories of other countries.’”

Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, cheerfully warning the world of the emerging multipolar world, like it or not.
Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, cheerfully warning the world of the emerging multipolar world, like it or not.

“In a little over a year, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) expects that there will be a dramatic drop in the working-age population of ‘developed regions’ of the world, which include Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.”

“DESA maintains an online resource called ‘World Population Prospects’ that allows anyone to view graphic representations of the UN’s anticipated demographic profiles for the world. Check it out for yourself to see how the UN has projected a massive decline in global population numbers c.2025.”

“We know through the UN’s Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Population Division of DESA that the entire UN system, if you will, has been involved in addressing population and interrelated issues for many decades now, almost as if the UN knows something about the future.”

“Why is the UN ‘predicting’ a precipitous decline in population numbers specifically in the developed world, and all within the next few years? Is this just an estimation of what it thinks might happen, or is the UN privy to knowledge about what is going to happen?”

“The sustainable development of financial relations and settlements within the BRICS organization is very important for all member states, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has said.”

“The statement was made at the Russia-China Financial Dialogue forum in Beijing on Monday, where Siluanov met with his Chinese counterpart, Lan Foan.”

“The BRICS group of emerging economies – which currently incorporates Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – has been discussing ways to facilitate payments in local currencies between member countries. The bloc aims to reduce their reliance on the US dollar and the euro for accelerated growth.”

“’We need to further develop financial cooperation within the BRICS countries. Here we see opportunities … to develop a payments system that would be independent of the infrastructure, which does not always fully fulfill the goals of individual countries,’ Siluanov stated.”