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

Mirco Romanato painlord2k at libero.it
Thu Sep 12 20:19:45 UTC 2013

Il 12/09/2013 16:50, Eugen Leitl ha scritto:
> On Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 10:31:55AM -0400, Rafal Smigrodzki wrote:
>> ### 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

> Historically, availability of cheap energy was always closely
> correlated with GNP (however biased the metric) growth. No
> known cases of decoupling have been known, so far.

But cheap energy is necessary but not sufficient.
You must have the right socio-political structure (rule of laws,
freedom, etc.) to allow exploitation of the available resources.

>> 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

> Actually, one of the reasons was insufficient bread.

Actually, the main reason was too high taxes and government controls.
This stifled productions. People fled outside the borders of the empire
and welcome the barbarous, because they taxed the people a lot less than
the empire.

Bread were insufficient because the peasants have no gain in working
hard to grow more grain.

And come a time when barbarous invaded the empire, took control of it
and then, when they were weak, no one had any reason to restore the
imperial dominion.

>> circuses (which eventually, after hundreds of years of decay, lead to
>> military failure). The US and Europe will not fall because we run out

> Europe is one sick puppy, and most of North America is not
> any better shape. China is not doing at all well, if you
> read between the lines.

I bet the Black Death time was a bit worse than this (1/3 or 1/2
population of Europe died in few years). But it was a time of changes
and improvements. Necessity is the mother of Invention.

> That would be a good investment. A very good area of inquiry is
> analysing modes of degradation to identify key points, and reengineer
> the structures towards more resilience so that instead of a
> contagious, unmanaged collapse cascade stages the now more resilient
> system rolls back into defined states, becoming close to antifragile.

The problems of the system are nearly completely internals.
The system have some group in power that have detached themselves from
the consequences of their actions and they are growing at the expenses
of the rest of the people. Political and financial groups feed from the
economy at the expenses of productive people.

The main antifragile strategy is to return the power to the market.
Return the power to the people working and producing what is request and
paid freely.

For this, competition must be established and imposed in more field as
>From competitive currencies, to competitive infrastructures, to
competitive governments.

> This would not have been necessary, had we acted on time (1970s/1980s).
> Now a managed collapse appears a prerequsite for a sustainable
> recovery. At this stage, further growth is postponed until we
> can tap extraterrestrial resources. We've run out of everything
> down here, due to our numbers, and our increased resource use
> per capita.

The problem of central management is the same all the time.
The central managers run the system at their advantage, not their
subjects advantage. They can not run the system at the advantage of the
ruled because they lack the informations needed and the ability tio
process the informations in time before it is obsolete.

Wal-Mart bringing supplies to its stores days before the FEMA was able
to arrive is an example and distributing packs of emergency stuff to the
people in need is the classical example of free enterprise making circle
around government programs.

>> - 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

> Rebound from war was possible because energy and other resources
> were available. UK never really recovered. Poland just raided the
> retirement pension funds. Germany is a low-wage country relying
> on exports, and will collapse if the exports stop coming.

Maybe, just maybe, the insane level of public debts (Germany not
excluded) have something to do with it?
Government debt is the promise to tax the residents in the future to pay
for current expenses.
It is not strange people try everything the can to avoid it, sometimes
at the cost of leaving the place.

Anyway, the retirement funds of the poles (for some poles) never where
there. They were just an accounting trick. So the government, simply,
wrote off some debts and renegade some promises.

>> ever fail utterly (i.e. disappeared and was replaced by hordes of
>> disorganized savages, not just annexed by another modern state)? I

> The Eastern block never recovered. Southern Europe never
> recovered. UK never recovered (as a thought experiment, remove
> The City which is largely ficticious, since running on financial
> fumes, and run the numbers on what is left -- oops).

They never recovered their status as global power, but their standard of
living and technological level increased.

What is interesting to me, for example, is the standard of living and
the technology standard. If some kingdom or republic disappear and
something else replace them, is not a big problem.

>> 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.

> We don't know the likelihood. There was never a global civilization,
> until now. All previous local cultures collapsed, and never recovered
> on meaningful time scales.

If a global civilization collapse, local civilizations will grow.
When the Roman Empire collapsed many reign replaced it. And live went
on, and technology continued to improve, commerce continued (until the
Mormons invaded the North Africa and Spain).

Natural selection never stop.


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