The weekend edition of the “Planet Earth Report” provides a descriptive link to headline news by a leading science journalist about an extraordinary discovery, technology, person, or event changing our knowledge of Planet Earth and the future of the human species.
The Next Decade Could Be Even Worse –A historian believes he has discovered iron laws that predict the rise and fall of societies. reports Graeme Wood for The Atlantic. Peter Turchin –founder of a new transdisciplinary field of Cliodynamics, which uses the tools of complexity science and cultural evolution to study the dynamics of historical empires and modern nation-states–looks into a distant, science-fiction future for peers.
In War and Peace and War (2006), Turchin’s most accessible book, Wood writes that he likens himself to Hari Seldon, the “maverick mathematician” of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, who can foretell the rise and fall of the Galactic Empire and develop the means to shorten the millennia of chaos to follow. In those 10,000 years’ worth of data, Turchin believes he has found iron laws that dictate the fates of human societies.
“Turchin’s prognostications,” observes Wood, “would be easier to dismiss as barstool theorizing if they weren’t playing out now, roughly as he foretold 10 years ago.”
“The fate of our own society,” Turchin says, “is not going to be pretty, at least in the near term. “It’s too late,” he told Wood. “The problems are deep and structural—not the type that the tedious process of democratic change can fix in time to forestall mayhem. Turchin likens America to a huge ship headed directly for an iceberg: ‘If you have a discussion among the crew about which way to turn, you will not turn in time, and you hit the iceberg directly.’ The past 10 years or so have been discussion. That sickening crunch you now hear—steel twisting, rivets popping—is the sound of the ship hitting the iceberg.”
Eventually, Turchin hopes, reports Wood, “no government will make policy without reflecting on whether it is hurtling toward a mathematically preordained disaster.”
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