Why civilizations collapse

Jared Diamond does a TED talk on why societies collapse, even when they know they are self destructing. It was recorded in 2003.


07:45 – “One interesting common thread has to do with – in many cases – the rapidity of collapse after a society reaches its peak… Within a few decades after their peak, they collapse.”

11:00 – “How on earth did these societies not see what they were doing? … Maybe in the next century, people will be asking, ‘Why on Earth did these people in the year 2003 not see the obvious things that they were doing and take corrective action?'”

11:50 – “One blueprint for trouble, making collapse likely, is where there’s a conflict of interest between the short-term interests of the decision-making elites and the long term interests of society as a whole. Especially if the elites are able to insulate themselves from the consequences of their actions. Where what’s good in the short run for the elites is bad for the society as a whole, there’s a real risk of the elites doing things that will bring the society down in the long run.”

13:00 – “Within the past couple of years, it’s been obvious that the elite in the business world correctly perceived that they could advance their short-term interests by doing things that are good for them but bad for society as a whole.”

Amazing, and this was presented in 2003.  I agree 100% with the general direction of Diamond’s comments.  The USSR, the 19th century monarchist Europe, aristocratic France before 1789, all fit into this model.


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