The More Complex Our Society The More Vulnerable For Catastrophe

January 11, 2017, by Ken Jorgustin

At a bare minimum we have become more vulnerable for ‘disruption’ as our society has become more complex. But it doesn’t stop there. Perhaps more accurately we might say that ‘catastrophe’ or ‘meltdown’ are better words to describe our vulnerability from the systemic risks that are built-in to our modern way of life.

Things, life, our way of life, used to be much simpler. There was a time when we as a society and we as individuals had more tangible control of the things that affect our survivability. Today however ‘things’ are much more complex and complicated. Our survivability is very much reliant upon very complex technologies, and without them most of us would surely perish.

Is the populace at large aware of these dangerous systemic risks?
Answer: No.

Would they even care about it if someone explained to them?
Answer: No.

Why not?
Answer: Normalcy bias. ‘Too busy’ for that nonsense…

For the rest, is their rationale to proactively offset these risks?
Answer: Absolutely, yes!

Systemic Risk. This is a category that I have written about from time to time, and is something that I have been very much aware of. It’s one of those things that once you see it, you can’t un-see it. In fact you will find more and more of it as you ‘look’ around…

It is in nearly all aspects of our modern lives. Most of it is invisible to the unknowing.

Food just ends up at the grocery stores (somehow).

Gasoline just ends up at the pumps (somehow).

Electricity just ends up in our homes (somehow).

We can order just about anything we want online and have it delivered to us (somehow).

Millions of people can coexist and survive in areas comprising just square miles or tens of square miles (somehow).

Clean drinking water consistently comes out of our faucets (somehow).

Nuclear power plants inject countless megawatts of electricity into the grid without a meltdown (somehow).

Only 2 percent of Americans live on a Farm, but we have plenty of food to eat (somehow).

We can easily borrow thousands of dollars to buy just about whatever we want on credit (somehow).

We can buy inexpensive cheap products made in China and elsewhere by ‘slave labor’ and feel good about it (somehow).

The trash is always picked up at the curb and just ‘goes away’ (somehow).

The ATM machines always spit out cash when we need it (somehow).

Things always seem to be available, just in time (somehow).

I could go on. However I challenge you to research the technologies and dependencies (inter-dependencies) that exist in order to seamlessly provide us our wants and needs in today’s modern society. The more complex these systems become, the more vulnerable we are to disruption or even catastrophe.

Do not take it for granted that these systems ‘work’. I’m telling you, eventually a cog in the wheel will break… and the system which that cog is integrated will stop. Will there be chain reactions when one system breaks? Maybe yes. Perhaps other systems which are dependent upon that system will themselves stop ‘working’. And so on.

Today’s technologies are remarkable in what they can achieve. But don’t get overly confident that they’ll always ‘work’.