Ignorance by Consensus

Human societies invest huge social resources into maintaining a collective world-view and the status quo. This makes them prone to missing novel or uncomfortable risks—even when they're well sign-posted.

In the World at the Limits to Growth

We imagine this country is in crisis, yet crisis is relative. Most people in the world would envy our material austerity and be thankful for our endlessly 'collapsing' health service. But with our expectations thwarted and in the anxiety of uncertainty, we are focussed inward. Yet we remain as deluded as ever.

Energy and  Food Constraints

We may rail against the regulators, politicians, and others who failed to understand and manage past risks, but we are just as culpable for our failure to engage with severe, well-signposted, imminent ones. Impassioned arguments over bank nationalisation, the austerity-stimulus debate, and NAMA consume us today, but in reality may be little more than a Lilliputian tussle over the fag-end of our
globalised economy. But it seems we cannot see our own predicament.

Catastrophic Shocks in Complex Socio-Economic Systems—a pandemic perspective

The globalised economy has become more complex (connectivity, interdependence, and speed), delocalized, with increasing concentration within critical systems. This has made us all more vulnerable to systemic shocks. This paper provides an overview of the effect of a major pandemic on the operation of complex socio-economic systems using some simple models. It discusses the links between initial pandemic absenteeism and supply-chain contagion, and the evolution and rate of shock propagation. It discusses systemic collapse and the difficulties of re-booting socio-economic systems.

Trade Off: Financial System Supply-chain Cross Contagion—a Study in Global Systemic Collapse

This study considers the relationship between a global systemic banking, monetary and solvency crisis and its implications for the real-time flow of goods and services in the globalised economy. It outlines how contagion in the financial system could set off semi-autonomous contagion in supplychains globally, even where buyers and sellers are linked by solvency, sound money and bank intermediation. The cross-contagion between the financial system and trade/production networks is mutually reinforcing.

On the Cusp of Collapse

The systems on which we rely for our financial transactions, food, fuel and livelihoods are so inter-dependent that they are better regarded as facets of a single global system. Maintaining and operating this global system requires a lot of energy and, because the fixed costs of operating it are high, it is only cost-effective if it is run at near full capacity. As a result, if its throughput falls because less energy is available, it does not contract in a gentle, controllable manner. Instead it is subject to catastrophic collapse.

Tipping Point (English version)

The credit crisis exemplifies society's difficulties in the timely management of risks outside our experience or immediate concerns, even when such risks are well signposted. We have passed or are close to passing the peak of global oil production. Our civilisation is structurally unstable to an energy withdrawal. There is a high probability that our integrated and globalised civilisation is on the cusp of a fast and near-term collapse.

Tipping Point (German version)

Die aktuelle Wirtschaftskrise hat deutlich die Schwierigkeiten aufgezeigt, die unsere Gesellschaft im rechtzeitigen Erkennen und Abwenden von Risiken hat. Wenn solche Risiken außerhalb unserer alltäglichen Erfahrungen liegen oder uns nicht unmittelbar betreffen hilft es oft auch nichts, wenn sich solche Gefahren mehr oder weniger deutlich ankündigen. Wir sind nahe einem Punkt, an dem die weltweite Ölproduktion zurückgehen wird oder haben diesen Punkt vielleicht schon erreicht (Peak-Oil). Unsere zivilisatorische Struktur reagiert auf einen Entzug von Energie instabil. Mit hoher Wahrscheinlichkeit steht unsere global vernetzte Zivilisation am Rande eines überraschend schnellen und baldigen Zusammenbruchs.

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