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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Why Societies Collapse

Interesting TED talk by Professor Jared Diamond, better known for his book "Guns, Germs, and Steel".

1. "One interesting common thread has to do with, in many cases, the rapidity of collapse after a society reaches its peak. There are many societies that don't wind down gradually, but they build up, get richer and more powerful, and then within a short time, within a few decades after their peak, they collapse."

2. "One blueprint for trouble, making collapse likely, is where there is a conflict of interest between the short-term interest of the decision-making elites, and the long-term interest of the society as a whole. Especially if the elites are able to insulate themselves from the consequences of their actions."

I am concerned with situations where a leadership class sets the society on a unsustainable trajectory that results in a rapid collapse of the whole system in a matter of decades.

This is especially worrying when the decision-makers are insulated from the consequences of their actions, therefore there is no feedback inhibition to reduce or stop their damaging policies.