Societal Growth and Crisis 2017-05-11T17:19:08+00:00

societal growth & crisis

Complexity Science

August 28th, 2015|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.

How Western Civilization Could Collapse

April 18th, 2017|Tags: |

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 and Public Policy

May 5th, 2010|

This article is based on the Canada School of Public Service’s 2010 John L. Manion Lecture, delivered on May 5, 2010 at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, and entitled Complexity, Crisis and Change: Implications for the Federal Public Service.

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. In Global Catastrophes and Trends, Smil, a Canadian scientist of prodigious productivity and extraordinary disciplinary breadth, basically says “get used to it”. Many of the vital natural and social systems around us are so complex that deep uncertainty characterizes their behaviour, scientist of prodigious productivity and extraordinary disciplinary breadth, basically says “get used to it”. Many of the vital natural and social systems around us are so complex that deep uncertainty characterizes their behaviour, and predicting this behaviour is near impossible.

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: |

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.

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