Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh CLXVII
The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be
The article in question (short and concise) is an update of the World3 model used in creating the various scenarios in the 1972 The Limits to Growth study using the most recent empirical data.
While the authors make clear the uncertainty involved in a data’s trendline after it reaches its ‘tipping point’ (although one could argue there exists great uncertainty in any such modelling beyond the present; complex systems with their nonlinear feedback loops and emergent phenomena are impossible to map out with ‘perfect’ accuracy), the interesting — but not surprising — thing to note is that virtually all of these projections exhibit not just shifts of their peaks into the future but ‘higher highs’ followed by temporally-contracted declines (i.e., a quicker ‘collapse’) resulting in ‘lower lows’.
‘Deniers’ will argue this highlights the fallibility of ‘doom-based’ narratives’ and ‘bargainers’ will likely suggest this buys humanity more time to ‘mitigate/manage’ our predicament. But, perhaps, this merely points out how non-linear system-feedback loops behave.
As Donella Meadows argued in Thinking in Systems: A Primer: “…Delays that are too long cause damped, sustained or exploding oscillations, depending on how much too long. Overlong delays in a system with a threshold, a danger point, a range past which irreversible damage can occur, cause overshoot and collapse.”
The delays in these peaks that are projected are looking to allow us to go further into overshoot — providing fodder for those rationalising away our predicament — and most likely result in a ‘correction’ that will most certainly ‘dampen’ adaptive responses as the time to do so will be shorter. Such a situation may also possibly feed into further negative feedback loops as attempted adaptations could be quite maladaptive (as many (most? all?) have been the past few decades given the influence and direction of our societies’ wealth-extractors who are leveraging our predicament at every turn).
While it is indeed difficult to make predictions, especially if they’re about the future, overshoot and collapse remains the predicted ‘conclusion’ of this business-as-usual scenario, despite the uncertainty painted by the authors.
As the saying goes, the future ain’t what it used to be; it seems to be getting worse by the day…