“We may get to the point where the only way of saving the world will be for industrial civilization to collapse.”— Maurice Strong
“All enterprises that are entered into with indiscreet zeal may be pursued with great vigor at first, but are sure to collapse in the end.”— Tacitus
“I come from a country in which I experienced economic collapse.”— Angela Merkel
“The welfare state is collapsing all around us. There are people that realize that we can’t go on this way, but I’m not sure how many people realize how close we are to the collapse of the U.S. financial system.”— Rush Limbaugh
“No civilization on the brink of collapse has ever changed fast enough to avert collapse.”— Joel Salatin
“The interest on our debt is going to collapse this country.”— Ted Yoho
“The precedent is that civilizations collapse, and everything’s stacked up for this one to go, and it’s a mess when it happens.”— Gail Bradbrook
The world is a big mess, and getting worse by the day. Ukraine escalation. Inflation. Enormous debt. Supply chains still struggling. Petrodollar collapse. U.S. hegemony falling apart. Nuke war threats. And much more. Are we doomed, or is this actually some good news? The world is a complex system, and system collapse is how things get fixed. There may be no other way out for us.
Every day, I read some new news about old news concerning the impending collapse of one major thing or another. It seems that almost everything today is in some state of collapse or heading there. Invariably, these pieces conclude that “we” or “somebody” should do something about the particular mess involved. Who exactly is “we” or “somebody”?
Localized collapses can often be managed to avoid total destruction. But today, we have powerful global forces driving for some sort of One World Order (or Government). This, intentionally or not, is bringing local systems of every kind into the “harmony” of centralized control by various elites. The result is a global system of almost incomprehensible complexity. And decreasing flexibility.
Centralized control of our global complex system is impossible. Efforts by various groups to bend things toward their ends is almost certain to make things worse. Nobody, including the aptly named “artificial” intelligence machinery, is smart enough. We don’t even know how our global system works, dynamically.
Large complex systems are inherently fragile
A recent post was an attempt to address our complex, and fragile it turns out, world. It looked mostly at the nature of world system fragility, and how we might adapt to it. Collapse, however, was assumed to be largely localized and thus survivable for the majority.
What it did not consider was the situation of a world systems collapse. Not localized but pretty much global in extent. After more reading on this, I am now of the persuasion that the globalists are in fact going to have their way with us, and quite soon. Some sort of One-New World Order may well be in the cards.
Klaus Schwab and his World Economic Forum (WEF), together with an impressive array of governments, corporations, NGO’s, and the like, appear to be making substantial and irreversible progress toward their Great Reset, Fourth Industrial Revolution, Agenda 2030, and other super-grandiose goals. The UN and WHO are also highly active among this gang.
The effect of their combined machinations is likely to be a tightly wrapped and controlled world of enormous complexity. And great fragility.
Complexity and fragility of this magnitude are certain to result in a collapse of the whole system. Nobody and no group is smart enough or powerful enough to prevent such an outcome. It is just what large fragile complex systems do.
A collapse outcome is definitely not in their playbook and grandiose schemes, which adds to the likelihood of complete collapse. Probably underway today.
Intelligent organic systems use collapse for renewal
Inorganic, mechanical systems can behave only within the constraints and capabilities designed into them by whosoever. They don’t think or create in any real sense. The AI folks pretend otherwise, but their systems have a very long way to go to achieve self-awareness and associated intelligence, as this post argued.
Note that intelligent systems don’t generally engineer collapses as part of their operating and fix-it plans. These systems instead become highly adaptive, agile, and resilient as the result of being exposed to endless collapses of various kinds and magnitudes.
Us humans, as mostly-intelligent organic systems, have survived all manner of nastiness over millennia. See this post for an elaboration.
We have become quite adept at adapting and surviving. Amazingly so, in fact. We have had so much practice at this, as evidenced by our (so far at least) successful survival. Even though the current crop of crazies that run the world today keep pushing the world toward annihilation via nuclear war, they will not likely succeed – as I attempt to argue below.
Us organic mostly-intelligent systems evolve so that – in Charles Darwin’s view – we survive by being the most adaptable. How exactly do we go about this? Easy – only those who are especially good at adaptation survive. Kind of an auto-pilot thing it seems.
This is not good news for those of us who are not adept at adaptation.
Even worse, it seems that we truly need regular collapses to flush the weakly and non-adaptable intelligent organic systems out of the place. Collapses are therefore essential to our survival. No collapses, no adaptation, no survival.
As history shows, we humans are pretty good at generating regular catastrophes and collapses. It just what we do.
Human nature is our best collapse-generator
Why should this be so? One might think that humans would make great efforts toward preventing and mitigating such nasty occurrences. One might be a tad naïve in this respect. Humans tend to mostly look out for numero uno, with the general welfare of humanity being variably, but less, important. Despite much contrary propaganda.
We have with us today, or perhaps far above us in self-importance, so many examples of human nature at work in generating catastrophes and collapses. In the context of this post, they are effectively doing just what we humans need as a means of strengthening our adaptability, agility, and resilience. Bad guys inadvertently doing good stuff?
How can a major collapse be considered “good news”?
Collapses of almost any kind cause all manner of pain and suffering. This is definitely not good news – at least for those involved. Probably not for compassionate spectators either. So just where is this so-called “good news”?
Seeing the good news requires stepping back from the current struggles and focusing on the end result. Situations that cause collapses, such as our enormous debt, simply can’t be fixed by human actions. Our actions are more likely than not to make whatever is going on that much worse. We are just not smart enough or strong enough to fix these huge problems.
The inexorable process of collapse and subsequent recovery is the only way that such problems get “fixed”. We who survive may not like the fix that occurs, but we really don’t have any choice in the fix.
Think about our huge burden of government and personal debt for example. There is no way that this debt can ever be repaid. The system-generated fix will involve defaults, bank failures, business failures, and government failures. Existing money may fail as well, as governments issuing the fiat money crash and burn.
So where is the good news in this example?
It lies in our recognition today of what is happening, and adapting as quickly and effectively as possible to minimize the impact on us and our organizations. The alternative is to do nothing and suffer the system-generated consequences in real-time. Constructive, anticipative, action, in my mind, is much preferred.
Unless our actions just make things worse, which is certainly possible, we should see positive results if we have sufficient resolve, creativity, and lead time. The knowledge that humanity has survived, and even prospered, through innumerable collapses over its history is evidence that we have a very good chance of surviving or better. But not unless we act in a timely and competent manner.
So, the “good news” is that we can survive, and perhaps prosper, if we act before the collapse makes our action impossible or ineffective.
What might the “major collapse” we are facing look like?
Lots of opinions on this vital question as you might expect. The real answer is probably “Who knows”, or simply and more accurately, “Nobody knows”.
Doug Casey via ZeroHedge sees the collapse occurring as the result of a battle over world centralization (globalization):
“These things are happening right before our eyes. The question is whether it’s possible to reverse the trend. Trends in motion tend to stay in motion, and current trends toward economic, political, and social upset are accelerating. At some point—I’d say very soon—they’ll reach a crisis point when anything can happen. It’s a good bet we could see a collapse of the current system, at which point a whole new paradigm might be set up, whether we like it or not. The WEF types call it ‘The Great Reset.’ It’s unlikely to be convenient or pleasant for most people over the next 10 or 20 years as the world reshapes itself.”
“Of course, change is the only constant. It’s good that change came to ancient Egypt, ancient Rome, medieval Europe, and hundreds of other cultures—even though it was traumatic for them at the time. But I believe Western Civ is not only unique in all of history but orders of magnitude better—at least if you define ‘better’ as personal freedom and a high standard of living for the average man.”
Interesting theory but not of much help so far as I can see. Events and forces well beyond our control are going to determine what happens. We can affect only what we can control.
A particularly important aspect of the impending collapse is its likely timeframe. Might it be conveniently gradual, thus giving us survivor-wannabes enough time to develop effective responses, or will it inconveniently be quite sudden? The latter outcome would not give us enough time to prepare adequately.
Fortunately, we have the wisdom of Seneca to drawn upon. You all know Seneca, yes? Well, he was a Stoic philosopher of ancient Rome, a statesman, dramatist, and satirist, and (fatally) tutor to the Roman Emperor Nero. Before he was suicided, Seneca had some observations on what we now term the “Seneca effect”, via Wikipedia:
“The Seneca effect, or Seneca cliff or Seneca collapse, is a mathematical model proposed by Ugo Bardi to describe situations where a system’s rate of decline is much sharper than its earlier rate of growth.”
“In 2017, Bardi published a book titled The Seneca Effect: When Growth is Slow but Collapse is Rapid, named as the Roman philosopher and writer Seneca, who wrote Fortune is of sluggish growth, but ruin is rapid:”
“Whatever structure has been reared by a long sequence of years, at the cost of great toil and through the great kindness of the gods, is scattered and dispersed by a single day. Nay, he who has said ‘a day’ has granted too long a postponement to swift-coming misfortune; an hour, an instant of time, suffices for the overthrow of empires! It would be some consolation for the feebleness of ourselves and our works, if all things should perish as slowly as they come into being; but as it is, increases are of sluggish growth, but the way to ruin is rapid.” — Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, 91.6
“Bardi’s book looked at cases of rapid decline across societies (including the fall of empires, financial crises, and major famines), in nature (including avalanches), and through man-made systems (including cracks in metal objects). Bardi concluded that rapid collapse is not a flaw, or bug’ as he terms it, but a ‘varied and ubiquitous phenomena’ with multiple causes and resultant pathways. The collapse of a system can often clear the path for new, and better adapted, structures. In a 2019 book titled Before the Collapse: A Guide to the Other Side of Growth, Bardi describes a ‘Seneca Rebound’ that often takes place were new systems replace the collapsed system, and often at a rate faster than preceding growth rates as the collapse has eliminated many of impediments or constraints from the previous system.”
Seneca probably got it right: The way to (societal) ruin is rapid
Archeologist Joseph Tainter studied the collapse of many societies in history and reported his findings in “The Collapse of Complex Societies (1988)”:
“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.”
“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.”
The emphasis on “complex societies” certainly makes Tainter’s theory applicable to us today. Complex societies require increasing amounts of resources to function, eventually exhausting the society’s ability to support the administrative burden. Once this threshold is exceeded, the collapse occurs relatively quickly.
Charles Hugh Smith in his OfTwoMinds blog emphasizes the importance of complex system brittleness: “Will 2023 Be ‘Just An Average Recession In An Average Year’ Or Will It Be Transformational?”:
“Systems follow their own rules, and so unlike politics, our opinions don’t change the results. All of these dynamics are (in my analysis) clearly visible in the global status quo. The rational conclusion is the risks of disruption, disorder and conflict as things decay and fall apart are relatively high.”
“While some trends and conflicts can last for decades (the Thirty Years War in Europe, the Cold War between the US and the USSR), diminishing returns on status quo ‘solutions’ that no longer work as anticipated tend to unravel on the periphery which then spreads quickly to the core.”
“Those economies and societies which are hidebound / centralized politically and economically are brittle because they lack the systemic means to adapt quickly and successfully to diminishing returns and seismic shifts in price and the availability of essentials.”
“Brittle systems that lack the structural means to adapt decay and collapse. This is scale-invariant, which means this is equally true of households, small businesses, global enterprises, nations and empires.”
“There are many such brittle systems in the global status quo, and to expect all of them to remain stable as diminishing returns start yielding negative returns (i.e. cost more than they produce in gains) and scarcities drive prices higher than the bottom 90% can afford as inflation reduces the purchasing power of their earnings–this expectation is based on a confidence that past trends are essentially permanent and every system in the world today will adapt successfully to scarcity, disorder and the reversal of financialization and globalization.”
The brittle quality of societies is of course reflected in their tendency to shatter at some point – break or collapse very suddenly. Sounds maybe like our world today, yes?
Where are we today on the collapse timeline?
The best we can do seems to be keeping a close eye on “collapse indicators”. These are events or situations that appear likely to reflect things coming unglued.
Mike Adams who runs Natural News might be onto something important in this short piece:
“Today’s interview with Dr. Malone explores those questions and much more. The full podcast (see below) continues with my own discussion of the rise and fall of civilizations and why the Western Empire is currently transitioning into its final ‘coercion’ phase which involves governments functioning as terrorist organizations and declaring war against their own people. (This is exactly what’s happening across the US, UK, Canada and other western nations right now.)”
“Coercion is the final stage before empires collapse. The collapse will involve tremendous human suffering, violence and death, but after it runs its course, the survivors will be in a position to choose a new future for human civilization.”
“Both Dr. Malone and I believe that future will be rooted in decentralization, a topology that is far more resilient and smarter than centralized, government-mandated systems of organization. All centralized systems eventually become run by incompetent, arrogant idiots, causing them to fail in spectacular fashion. The fall will necessitate the people turning to local, decentralized solutions for food, money, medicine, self-defense, communications, information sharing, resource allocation and more.”
Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations no less, thinks that the planet is already broken:
“In December 2020 the Secretary General of the UN Antonio Guterres really fleshed out the global commons concept. Speaking to an audience gathered at Columbia University, the pivotal academic institution in the development of Technocracy, he said:”
“To put it simply, the state of the planet is broken.. human activities are at the root of our descent towards chaos.. the recovery from the pandemic is an opportunity…It is time to flick the ‘green switch’. We have a chance to not simply reset the world economy but to transform it…We must turn this momentum into a movement…”
“Everything is interlinked – the global commons and global well-being…This means: More and bigger effectively managed conservation areas… Biodiversity-positive agriculture and fisheries…More and more people are understanding the need for their own daily choices to reduce their carbon footprint and respect planetary boundaries…From protests in the streets to advocacy on-line…From classroom education to community engagement…From voting booths to places of work…”
“We cannot go back to the old normal…We have a blueprint: the 2030 Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change…Now is the time to transform humankind’s relationship with the natural world – and with each other.”
Each person is likely to read the situation today differently. Views will range from “nothing to see here” to “we’re all gonna die”. At each of these extremes, there would be nothing much for us to do but wait for the inevitable and hope we get lucky (i.e., at surviving, or at not-surviving).
My take, for whatever it may be worth, is that we are well into a major societal collapse globally and that this misery will play out fully over the next few years. Oddly enough, a timeline of this nature is just what Strauss and Howe predict as the current Fourth Turning Crisis phase.
This brings me back to Darwin’s observation that survivors are those who are most adaptable. My elaboration of this fundamental fact involves strengthening your adaptability, agility, and resilience. Given today’s likely collapse situation, the approach that I’d suggest would be based on scenario planning.
Scenario planning for adaptability, agility, and resilience
This is a well-established technique for planning and acting in a highly unpredictable and unforeseeable world. My COVID-enlightened version is here. Wikipedia has a good introduction in case this is something new to you.
The underlying goal in scenario planning is to discover your vulnerabilities across a wide range of likely situations and events – scenarios – and to develop and implement effective corrective measures. Since you have no idea of what will actually happen, absent a functioning crystal ball, you need to prepare as best you can for anything that looks even remotely likely.
This includes black swans, which by definition are unforeseeable in nature, magnitude, and timing. Your scenario set is likely to include some “grey swans” that are somewhat foreseeable. An example: Nuclear World War III.
Nuclear World War III Scenario
Scary threats of such a war seem to be increasing daily, driven at the moment by the Ukraine-NATO-US proxy war against Russia. The likelihood of a non-war resolution in the Ukraine appears to be somewhere around zero right now. Nothing much that any of us normal folk can do about what’s happening, but what might a planning scenario for this situation look like?
The baseline here is that nuclear war would be so awful that it presents a mostly existential challenge to the entire world. The likely scenario set:
- Full-scale nuclear World War III. This hopefully still-unlikely scenario would be between Russia and the West (U.S., U.K., NATO, Canada, …), with China possibly drawn in as well. The Northern hemisphere is almost certain to become an unsurvivable mess for decades, if not centuries. Survival in this case would seem to be having a readily-reached presence in the Global South. The adaptation lesson here would be to set up multiple geographic locations for ourselves, families, businesses and organizations in the Global South. Expensive and will take some lead time. Not practical for most of us.
- Limited nuclear war, assuming that such is possible. By “limited”, I understand that only a few nukes would be involved, and that these would be widely dispersed among the belligerents. Some EU cities, a couple of U.S. cities, and probably a couple of Russian cities. This scenario seems to me to be about as bad as the full-scale one above. Again, best plan for survival is to have a sizable presence in the Global South. Radiation from any likely but limited nuclear explosions would make the northern regions largely uninhabitable for decades at a minimum. Same problem as above.
- No nuclear World War III. This would mean that whatever war situations continue through a planning period such as five years, they would be localized (Ukraine and adjacent countries excluding Russia) and relatively contained. Things would move along more or less as they are today. This situation is definitely one that we can plan around.
- Wildcard war scenario: “Accident”. A while back, I had a look at how one might be able to survive a nuclear war that was triggered by an “accident”, not intentionally. Whatever one may think of our current global leadership, they may be collectively insane as their actions lately demonstrate, but they are not suicidal (with some exceptions no doubt). No one in a position to press the big nuke button is likely to do so, in my view. But accidents?
This fourth scenario item would in practice lead to either one of the first two situations. It would probably be treated as a likelihood qualifier on these options, leaving a manageable set of three. In fact, this scenario set should compress to a single scenario in which there is a reasonable likelihood of survival.
Scenario planning in a Fourth Turning Crisis phase world
What happens in the above case is that you don’t plan for anything but a non-nuke war. Scenarios then get developed around the other flavors of nastiness that we enjoy today. A quick list of our current collapse opportunities:
- Non-nuclear wars – localized
- Colossal debt burdens
- Endless pandemics
- One World Order globalists
- Global economic and political restructuring
- Population growth
- Resource shortages – oil, water, …
Not all of these may affect every organization. By going through this list, however, it should be possible to identify the primary points of impact in your business or organization. The reason for going through this list, including any other collapse items that you may discover, is to be sure that you know where and how each item might affect you. This in turn should allow you to prioritize.
Again, the main point here is to encourage the effort to address weaknesses and vulnerabilities while there is still time and resources to do so. Trying to address them post-impact in real-time is likely to fail, perhaps fatally.
We are headed into a very serious, multi-faceted downturn or set of collapses that will affect nearly all organizations and businesses. No escape. Many will fail despite major efforts to keep them alive because such efforts will be applicable mostly to the past. Worse yet, these efforts may be initiated too late because of human nature’s tendency toward procrastination and its normalcy bias (see Related Reading below).
- Natural News on December 18, 2022 reports that “HOSPITALS MOBBED with every room and even HALLWAYS occupied with portable cots”:
“The hospitals in Virginia are full, with nearly every room occupied, including the emergency rooms, and even portable cots in the halls are becoming the norm for the overflow. As witnessed by investigative reporters and journalists, several hospitals in major cities of Virginia are full past capacity, so not only is every room occupied, but many portable cots, with patients on them, are lined up in along the walls of the long halls and numbered.”
- King World News on December 18, 2022 flags the increasingly dire financial collapse: “Global Financial Chaos: It’s Now Inevitable”
“No one wants Uncle Sam’s debt. The recent auction for 10-Year USTs was a disaster, adding more downward pressure on bonds and hence upward pressure on US yields (above 3.6%) and rates—all of which makes repaying combined US public, private and corporate debts ($90T) one step closer to their breaking point;”
“Instead, and as warned all year, the US and global economy is effectively (i.e., already) on its debt-poor knees, and when, not if, we officially arrive at the hard landing of a local and global recession marked by tanking US (and other sovereign) bond markets, global yields will spike “Gilt-like” –ushering in a period of global market and economic dysfunction far beyond the pale of anything seen prior.”
- Human nature resists addressing disaster possibilities via a “normalcy bias”. Wikipedia explains:
“Normalcy bias, or normality bias, is a cognitive bias which leads people to disbelieve or minimize threat warnings. Consequently, individuals underestimate the likelihood of a disaster, when it might affect them, and its potential adverse effects. The normalcy bias causes many people to not adequately prepare for natural disasters, market crashes, and calamities caused by human error. About 70% of people reportedly display normalcy bias during a disaster.”
“The normalcy bias can manifest in response to warnings about disasters and actual catastrophes. Such disasters include market crashes, motor vehicle accidents, natural disasters like a tsunami, and war.”
“Normalcy bias has also been called analysis paralysis, the ostrich effect, and by first responders, the negative panic. The opposite of normalcy bias is overreaction, or worst-case scenario bias, in which small deviations from normality are dealt with as signals of an impending catastrophe.”