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Cancelling the Apocalypse – Avoiding Civilisational Collapse

Cancelling the Apocalypse – Why do civilizations collapse? And is our own civilization ripe for collapse?

2:19 Are we on the road to civilizational collapse?
11:01 Why we need global governance, not global government
18:20 The double-edged sword of civilizational complexity
24:11 The apocalyptic scenario Bob fears most
42:01 Luke: Not every problem has a technical solution
50:15 Bob: Slower technological change would be a blessing

A discussion between Robert Wright (Bloggingheads.tv, The Evolution of God, Nonzero, Why Buddhism Is True) and Luke Kemp (Centre for the Study of Existential Risk)

Luke Kemp is working on how catastrophic risks are interconnected, how we can better predict them, and how we can translate foresight into action in the present. He is a an honourary lecturer in environmental policy at the Australian National University (ANU), holds a PhD in international relations from the ANU and was a senior economist (at Vivid Economics) for several years.

One interesting concept brought up was the Red Queen Race – is an evolutionary hypothesis which proposes that organisms must constantly adapt, evolve, and proliferate in order to survive while pitted against ever-evolving opposing organisms in a constantly changing environment, as well as to gain reproductive advantage.

The hypothesis intends to explain two different phenomena: the constant extinction rates as observed in the paleontological record caused by co-evolution between competing species, and the advantage of sexual reproduction (as opposed to asexual reproduction) at the level of individuals.

Relatedly, this was a great read:

Civilisational collapse has a bright past – but a dark future

“Is the collapse of a civilisation necessarily calamitous? The failure of the Egyptian Old Kingdom towards the end of the 2nd millennium BCE was accompanied by riots, tomb-raids and even cannibalism. ‘The whole of Upper Egypt died of hunger and each individual had reached such a state of hunger that he ate his own children,’ runs an account from 2120 BCE about the life of Ankhtifi, a southern provincial governor of Ancient Egypt.

Many of us are familiar with this historical narrative of how cultures can rapidly – and violently – decline and fall. Recent history appears to bear it out, too. Post-invasion Iraq witnessed 100,000 deaths in the first year and a half, followed by the emergence of ISIS. And the overthrow of the Libyan government in 2011 produced a power vacuum, leading to the re-emergence of the slave trade.

However, there’s a more complicated reality behind this view of collapse. In fact, the end of civilisations rarely involved a sudden cataclysm or apocalypse. Often the process is protracted, mild, and leaves people and culture continuing for many years.”

[…]

“Collapse, then, is a double-edged sword. Sometimes it’s a boon for subjects and a chance to restart decaying institutions. Yet it can also lead to the loss of population, culture and hardwon political structures. What comes from collapse depends, in part, on how people navigate the ensuing tumult, and how easily and safely citizens can return to alternative forms of society. Unfortunately, these features suggest that while collapse has a mixed track record, in the modern world it might have only a dark future.” .. [read more at aeon]


Also see this thread on Quora : “How does a civilization collapse? Will modern civilization collapse like the ancient ones?”