[ExI] Modes of failure Re: FW: How Electricity Became a Luxury Good

Rafal Smigrodzki rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com
Thu Sep 12 14:31:55 UTC 2013

On Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 9:21 AM, Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org> wrote:

> How you ever noticed how far the regression in capabilities
> goes in failing states? E.g. consider 7 nm node on Intel's
> roadmap. What is the supply chain for that, what is the
> market so that you ROI, and where do you get the investments?
> Consider access to space, consider supercomputing, consider
> nanotechnology. None of the failed and failing states engage
> in any of that to any relevant degree.
> What are you going to do if your patients can't afford you?
> If you cut back, can you continue providing your patients
> with levels of care you're comfortable with? If the revenue
> stream drops that you're bankrupt, and you can't find work
> in your area of work, nor any other area, for that matter?
> These will appear as outlandish scenarios for most people
> on this list, but they're a daily reality to many.

### You are making good points and I do not discount the possibility
that technological progress could be stopped or reversed due to state
failures - the only thing I disagree with is that I don't see energy
supply as a limiting issue. Sure, major failures are likely to
coincide with massive reductions in energy availability - but the
direction of causation, IMO, would run from social issues to
technology failures, not the reverse. We do have a handle on the
technologies of energy generation but we are much less effective at
social management (interpersonal power, political power, division of
resources, time preferences, financial management). Rome did not fall
because of military failure, it fell because of too much bread and
circuses (which eventually, after hundreds of years of decay, lead to
military failure). The US and Europe will not fall because we run out
of energy but, here I agree with you, we could fall, for other

It would be a useful discussion to analyze the modes of failure by
degree of likelihood. Useful data points: Europe during and after WWII
- no state failures despite insane levels of physical damage to
resources. What if somebody killed the top 10% of population by IQ (as
happened in Poland)? Still, no major state failure. Did a modern state
ever fail utterly (i.e. disappeared and was replaced by hordes of
disorganized savages, not just annexed by another modern state)? I
can't think of an example. Sure, there is a first time for everything
but the absence of failures despite damage levels far exceeding
anything happening nowadays does put some constraints on the
likelihood of such failures.


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