Paris attacks and climate change push us to fix broken systems

Categories: Big picture
Published on: November 28, 2015

Yes! Magazine / Nafeez Ahmed / 19 November 2015

Pray for ParisProfessor Joseph Tainter, the highly-regarded anthropologist who authored the classic book The Collapse of Complex Societies, has argued that one of the core reasons for the collapse of any civilization is the increasing complexity it creates in trying to solve increasingly complex problems of its own making. New tools, new ideas, new mechanisms, new bureaucracies to solve a crisis require new resources to create a whole new layer of complexity that generates its own new set of crises, challenges, and problems.

To solve those requires yet more problem-solving mechanisms, drawing on more resources, which end up adding yet another layer of complexity, only generating more problems down the line. Eventually, there comes a point where the system becomes so bloated and overcomplicated by its own resource-guzzling problem-solving bureaucracy that it can no longer generate sufficient resources to solve the next layer of problems generated by its own complexity. The historical result, as Tainter shows, is often civilizational collapse.

It need not be.