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Olduvai III: Catacylsm
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Cycles, Systems and Seats in the Coliseum

Cycles, Systems and Seats in the Coliseum

The idea that debt, leverage, speculation, greed, exploitation and parasitic elites can expand exponentially forever is magical thinking.

Contrary to first impressions, I am not a doom-and-gloomer; I’m a systems-cycles-er, meaning I’m interested in where systems and cycles are heading.

Cycles work because we’re still running Wetware 1.0 which entered beta testing around 200,000 years ago and was released, bugs and all, around 50,000 years ago. Since the processes and inputs haven’t changed, neither do the outputs.

Nature is a mix of dynamic, semi-chaotic systems (fractals, etc.) and cyclical patterns which tend to operate within predictable parameters. Why should human nature and human constructs (societies, economies and political realms) be any different?

So longterm success breeds complacency, hubris, economic and intellectual sclerosis, draining political infighting and the overproduction of parasitic elites, to use Peter Turchin’s apt description. Consumption of resources expands to soak up every last bit of what’s available and then the supply of goodies plummets for a multitude of completely natural and predictable reasons (sunspot/solar activity, El Nino, etc.) and a host of unpredictable but equally natural semi-chaotic extremes (100-year droughts, floods, etc.).

Wetware 1.0’s go-to solutions to all such difficulties are rather limited:

1. Ramp up magical thinking. If a couple of human sacrifices ensured good harvests in the good old days, let’s slaughter a couple hundred now–and if that doesn’t work, then…

2. Do more of what’s failed spectacularly and slaughter a couple thousand fellow humans, because darn it, maybe everything will turn around if we just kill another couple dozen.

This requires ignoring the novelty of the current challenges and clinging to what worked so well in the past even as whatever worked in the past can’t possibly work now because circumstances are fundamentally different.

3. Seek scapegoats. It’s those darn witches. Burn a bunch of them and our troubles will magically disappear.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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