Societal Growth and Crisis2017-09-21T18:35:45-04:00

societal growth & crisis

How Western Civilization Could Collapse

April 18th, 2017|Tags: |

by Rachel Nuwer | The political economist Benjamin Friedman once compared modern Western society to a stable bicycle whose wheels are kept spinning by economic growth. Should that forward-propelling motion slow or cease, the pillars that define our society would begin to teeter.

Ebola Epidemic Could Tear Societies Apart

September 18th, 2014|Tags: |

World leaders finally seem to be waking up to the gravity of the Ebola threat. Like the rest of us, they’ve been distracted by the Islamic State’s rampage in Syria and Iraq, the Ukrainian crisis, and even the mini-drama of the Scottish independence referendum.

Complexity Science

January 28th, 2011|Tags: |

Complexity science isn’t a fad. I will offer a brief survey of some core concepts and ideas, and I will make a strong case that . . . they can help us develop new strategies for generating solutions and prospering in this world.

Complexity Science and Public Policy

May 5th, 2010|Tags: |

We need to start thinking about the world in a new way, because in some fundamental and essential respects our world has changed its character. We need to shift from seeing the world as composed largely of simple machines to seeing it as composed mainly of complex systems.

When Wise Words Are Not Enough

March 19th, 2009|Tags: |

In two books that offer erudite assessments of the dangers facing humankind this century, Vaclav Smil and Chris Patten address these matters in sharply different ways.

Caught Up in Our Own Connections

August 13th, 2005|Tags: |

But perhaps the most important factor contributing to our continuing vulnerability is something that we rarely recognize and that’s even harder to change: a belief that greater connectivity and speed in all aspects of society are always good things.

The Matrix of Our Troubles

August 16th, 2003|Tags: |

with Sarah Wolfe | One could draw a parallel between the sight of thousands walking north on Yonge Street and the mass exodus of people on foot from lower Manhattan two years ago. But yesterday’s electrical failure did not claim thousands of lives, nor will it trigger a cascade of events leading to war. Nevertheless, what we saw in Toronto was poignant for what it represented: a people too interlocked with their technical choices, too resolute on efficiency gains, and too dependent on progress. Last Thursday’s blackout should be a powerful catalyst for change.

We Need a Forest of Tongues

July 3rd, 2001|Tags: |

Recently, the writer Ken Wiwa argued in this space that we shouldn’t worry too much about the loss of the world’s linguistic diversity. A recent study by the Worldwatch Institute, he reported, reported that half the world’s languages may soon disappear; especially vulnerable are those indigenous tongues spoken by only a few thousand people. This prospect has raised widespread alarm, because it’s generally thought that language and culture are closely related. So, when we lose a language, it’s assumed, we lose the associated culture.

The End of Pop-economics

September 2nd, 1998|Tags: |

with Robin Bienenstock | The current crisis in international markets highlights inadequacies in the way economists and other analysts think about the global economy.

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