Noting that warnings of ‘collapse’ are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that “the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history.” Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to “precipitous collapse – often lasting centuries – have been quite common.”
It finds that according to the historical record even advanced, complex civilisations are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the sustainability of modern civilisation:
“The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent.”
Environmental management requires long-term strategy which may not be profit-maximising; it requires outward-looking international co-operation; it requires taxation and state intervention. Such attitudes are anathema to a neoliberal. They refuse to believe there is a problem because the ideology to which they are devoted could not possibly begin to deal with it.
Let’s talk about the future of work. Let’s talk about Hacker Culture. Let’s talk about the radical democratization of knowledge and the near infinite possibilities available combining the tons of once cutting edge prohibitively expensive tech now sitting idle gathering dust available for nominal cost via a website this one guy and his pals used to literally bootstrap themselves into space.
Because we’ve managed to keep stumbling forwards, however much a mess we’ve made along the way. And there’s more aluminum sitting in rubbish dumps than mines, they say. Because we keep building new things. And then discarding them; throwing into drawers to rot objects that were for a moment the very highest of technology.
These are the moments I long for The Collapse. Apart from the mass deaths. Obviously.
What can we build when we stop trying. And start playing.
The Truth, as ever, lies somewhere between what we think we know and what we fear and what we can’t even imagine.
It wasn’t until the fifth viewing of Cloud Atlas that I saw the Wachowskis are showing us more than the trap of eternal recurrence. They’re giving us glimpses of the path we’re on too. Neo Seoul and the drowning earth.
And of course, a civilisation that just managed to reach the stars before the Collapse finally came. That managed to hurl bits of itself out into the void in one last push.