Précis of Nafez M. Ahmed's new book, Failing States, Collapsing Systems: BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence (Springer 2017).
"It's the energy, stupid."
But not just about oil
When a complex adaptive system is particularly challenged by its environmental conditions, it enters a stage of crisis. The crisis challenges the existing structures, the existing relationships and patterns of behaviour in a system. If the crisis intensifies, it can reach a threshold that undermines the integrity of the whole system. Eventually, either the system adapts by re-structuring, leading to a ‘phase shift’ to a new system, a new equilibrium — or it regresses.
In a civilisational context, the capacity to process information in such a way that it is distributed effectively across the system to contribute to resilient relationships is crucial to the system’s ability to survive, and adapt. The media institutions and processes that drive our behaviour are, in this sense, an interesting barometer of the health of the ‘DNA’ of our civilization.
The state of information overload and polarisation we are now experiencing therefore speaks to the fact that we are rapidly approaching a crisis threshold. The crisis has overwhelmed the existing structures of the global system. Our prevailing institutions and systems of power are in informational disarray as they struggle to make sense of what appears to be an overload of information signalling this systemic crisis.
At this point of threshold, the system faces a crisis of information overload, and an inability to meaningfully process the information available into actionable knowledge that can advance an adaptive response. Hence, for instance, the increasingly toxic polarisation of all political discourse....
Rather than an adaptive response based on a whole systems understanding, information overload — along with a deeply inadequate approach to understanding global systemic crises — allows short-sighted reactionary thinking to take the lead. Thus, the blame falls on particular groups of people identified as ‘the problem’, rather than diagnosing the structures of the system itself.
Rather than a transformative systemic response into a new adaptive ‘phase-shift’, we see a powerful cross-sector political economic faction with vested interests in the current structure of the global system engaged in efforts at systemic consolidation.
Their reaction is based on the erroneous view that the ‘crises’ now escalating are external to the system in question — in this case, these externalities are constructed simply as problematic group identities, perceived as having a parasitical impact on an otherwise optimal system.
In reality, this narrow reaction, by reinforcing the very deep structures that are escalating the processes of global system failure described, escalates the threshold of crisis. This maladaptive response represents a serious systemic regression, that heightens the risk of crisis and collapse....INSURGE intelligence - Medium
How global economic growth will drown in Trump’s oil glut after 2018
Nafeez Ahmed | Visiting Research Fellow at the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University’s Faculty of Science and Technology