Jared Diamond: Societal Collapse

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If you listen carefully to what Jared Diamond is saying in the TED video above, he is describing not a five part, but a six part power curve into a systemic singularity. This has been one of the core themes of discussion of this blog.  We all seem to be too close to our problems to see the commonality.  The interrogatives come into play here:

  1. Goals
  2. People
  3. Functions
  4. Forms
  5. Times
  6. Distances

Times and Distances being the basis on which the higher orders are built.

When we look at the recent economic “crisis” we see 300 trillion in currency circulating and roughly 1 trillion to 2 trillion shifting suddenly and unexpectedly.  We witnessed a systemic collapse, a singularity, a tipping point, a power curve, an exponential change, a phase transition or whatever label you want to call it.  These have been happening everywhere since Time and Distance began in different contexts and orders both in human and non-human systems.

What Jared Diamond and other alarmists are implying is that human society is now a system approaching its final singularity in this century on this planet.  We are implying that today we are experiencing a less than one percent crisis on a power curve into a singularity.  How many more iterations will the global system withstand?  Will humanity make the step into space successfully before we experience a global dark age?  How will the six or more factors in the power curve play out?

The truth to me appears to be that power curves whether they play out or not result in either a systemic climax or anti-climax followed by a systemic collapse.  Would it not be better if we experienced a systemic climax that led to us expanding into the solar system?

Systemic collapse seems to be the fashion of this generation.  Every generation looks with fascination at its own youth, maturition, reproduction and acceleration into mortality.  Some die early, some die late, but all die.  It is an irrevocable law of nature.  It is not about self-interest.  It is about what self-interest is defined as.

Related Posts:

Beyond the Singularity

Servitas and Libertas

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Romanticism vs. Empiricism

I’ve just finished reading The Long Tail by Chris Anderson as well as a fine article “Should you invest in the long tail?” in the Economist by Anita Elberse. Although I take both pieces of writing with a grain of salt one thing stands out. The scientist, Chris, conjured up a theory without any supporting data and the marketer, Anita, provided substantial supporting data and conjured up a conclusion. Chris said the long tail is fatter, while Anita found the tail is flatter. On the surface, what we have is a romantic physicist and an empirical marketer. But what lies deeper? It is a third party that Anita brings into play: William M. McPhee.

I could not find a book cover image for Formal Theories of Mass Behavior or a photo of William online, but his research is very interesting. In his Theory of Expousure, two concepts stand out: “Natural Monopoly” and “Double Jeopardy”. Natural monopoly says light users simply buy the most popular product. Double jeopardy says heavy users buy less popular products and like them less.  Another way to say it is 20 percent of us are polarized (double jeopardy) while 80 percent of us choose what the polarized like (natural monopoly).

This can be looked at in the context of a tipping point. Heavy users (Mavins, Connectors, Salesmen) will experiment with more products with a low benefit and high cost and light users (Accountants, Secretaries, Receptionists) will experiment with fewer products with a low cost and high benefit. It ain’t rocket science.

The same goes for stores, but in an interesting way. Heavy users will experiment with more stores with few products and light users will experiment with fewer stores with many products. Store count is regarded as cost and product selection is regarded as benefit.

Chris Anderson’s book appeals to a demographic that wants the benefits of heavy users and the costs of light users.

Anita Elbrese’s article appeals to a demographic that wants the costs of heavy users and the benefits of light users.

William M McPhee’s book appeals to a third demographic that says we ultimately all end up with much the same thing.