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

Rafal Smigrodzki rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com
Sat Sep 14 18:29:03 UTC 2013

On Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 10:50 AM, Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org> wrote:

> 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.

### Yeah, but what is the direction of causation - running out of
sources of cheap energy leading to loss of GNP, or rather losing
productive capacity due to e.g. barbarians at the gate, who broke the
windmills and killed the lumberjacks, leading to, among other things,
lower availability of energy. I am pretty sure that usually, and
certainly in modern times, the latter was the rule.

> Actually, one of the reasons was insufficient bread.

### Because barbarians slaughtered the peasants, because the corrupt
state did not maintain military supremacy.

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.

### Indeed! And Nassim Taleb is my hero, too.

> 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.

### I don't agree. Native populations in all areas crucial to further
technological growth (Europe, North America, China, Japan) are either
collapsing (voluntarily) or barely holding. There are more resources
than we can use, especially when it comes to energy sources.


>> - 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.

### Really? They never managed to discover the structure of DNA? Built
the Sinclair? The Concorde?

They closed many coal mines in Silesia recently, because there is just
too much coal on the market.


 Poland just raided the
> retirement pension funds. Germany is a low-wage country relying
> on exports, and will collapse if the exports stop coming.

### Low-wage???

>> 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).

### I think Eastern Europe recovered very well. Measured by per capita
living space, per capita income in real money, life expectancy,
scientific output, you name it, all states in Europe are vastly ahead
compared to the time at the end of the war, and still vastly ahead of
their pre-war status.

>> 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.

### We do know a lot. The world was very globalized before WWI, and
there was no global collapse despite horrendous losses in the key
industrial/scientific engine of the world, Europe, which recovered
well, was smashed again in WW II, and then recovered again.
Wirtschaftswunder, anybody?


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