Saturday, April 05, 2008

Why the demise of civilisation may be inevitable

Then when the climate changes or barbarians invade, overstretched institutions break down and civil order collapses, aggravated by tightly coupled networks that create the potential for propagating failure across many critical industries.

What emerges is a less complex society, organized on a smaller scale or that has been taken over by another group, and loss of our hard-earned knowledge.

Possible solutions include distributed and decentralized production of vital goods like energy and food and adding redundancy to the electrical grid and other networks.

I've never considered civilization anything more than a passing phase. It seems essential because it's all we know, but when we look at it squarely we find at least as many inherent flaws as benefits. I say it's time to venture out of the womb and look around.


W.M. Bear said...

I consider it impossible in principle to imagine further into the future than roughly a hundred years (if that). And that's just one human lifespan. The possibilities are simply too enormous to contemplate and, typically, developments which are currently unimaginable now may turn out to be of central concern in fifty years.

We always point to the development of personal computing which, as recently thirty years ago was only just appearing on the event horizon. For example, should genuine "strong" AI be developed within the next hundred years (something I'm strongly inclined to doubt), I suspect even the most advanced current singularitarian speculation will fall way wide of the mark in terms of its consequences.

mr. intense said...

"Possible solutions include distributed and decentralized production of vital goods like energy and food and adding redundancy to the electrical grid and other networks."

The implication, then, is that perhaps a form of decentralized social network, similar to how and why ARPA created the network of early defense and university computers, to avoid having one centralized system subject to possible nuclear destruction, or a form of "social internet," might be created, whereby in locales dispersed around the country, individual, sustainable, off-the-grid, self-supporting "human nodes," with comm and other forms of reliable, redundant links or channels of mutual cooperation could someday be established, as nation-states deteriorate in the face of multinational interests rising to dominate commerce, energy, etc., so that, even as things "fall apart," the capacity for less complex groups, perhaps centered around towns and small cities, could survive and be self sustained through such independent "cultural modules" in the face of complexity, and the difficulty of managing levels of complexity that might overwhelm the human capacity to sustain such mega-level, consolidated social and economic structures, to at least allow greater local independence and viability.

Of course, humans aren't networks, per se, nor act like Cisco routers, so who knows what is or isn't possible and realizable in the face of such challenges as noted at the article link.

Might a thousand singularities, on a smaller, but directed toward survival, bloom, as an alternative to the way things are, and how they can fall apart?

Central problem: energy sources to allow even this level of independent groupings to function. Among others.

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