"THE SIMPLIFICATION OF COMPLEX SOCIETIES
... please go read the anthropologist Joseph Tainter's book, "The Collapse of Complex Societies" (I've been a big fan of his work for ages). In the book, he makes the compelling case that complex societies are, at root, very successful problem solving systems. If they weren't, they would never have become complex in the first place. Why? Societies solve challenges by creating new rules and processes (new complexity) that are then added on to the existing system ad infinitum. More successful outcomes = more complexity.
However, as noted above, problem solving comes at a cost. Each solution leaves a residue, a layer of complexity that never goes away... It builds up over time ... Eventually, every new layer of complexity extracts more in costs than it provides in benefit (solution). At that point, according to Tainter's analysis of ancient civilizations, the complex society collapses.
So, the question always is, why don't these societies simplify themselves? The problem is they can't. The techpundit Clay Shirky words this eloquently in a recent post on Tainter's work called, "The Collapse of Complex Business Models":
"In such systems, there is no way to make things a little bit simpler – the whole edifice becomes a huge, interlocking system not readily amenable to change. Tainter doesn’t regard the sudden de-coherence of these societies as either a tragedy or a mistake—”Under a situation of declining marginal returns collapse may be the most appropriate response”, to use his pitiless phrase. Furthermore, even when moderate adjustments could be made, they tend to be resisted, because any simplification discomfits elites. When the value of complexity turns negative, a society plagued by an inability to react remains as complex as ever, right up to the moment where it becomes suddenly and dramatically simpler, which is to say right up to the moment of collapse. Collapse is simply the last remaining method of simplification."
|4th of July Bonduel (2016)|
|Abandoned Recreational Site 072016|
|Parade in District 12 2016|
|Detail at Abandoned Recreation Site 07222016|