X-Events: The Collapse of Everything

( 2 )

Overview

An acclaimed theorist offers a provocative and chilling warning: today’s advanced societies have grown overcomplex and highly vulnerable to extreme events that could topple civilization

The modern industrialized world is a complex system on a scale never before witnessed in the history of humankind. Technologically dependent, globally interconnected, it offers seemingly limitless conveniences, choices, and opportunities. Yet this same modern civilization may be as unstable as a ...

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X-Events: The Collapse of Everything

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Overview

An acclaimed theorist offers a provocative and chilling warning: today’s advanced societies have grown overcomplex and highly vulnerable to extreme events that could topple civilization

The modern industrialized world is a complex system on a scale never before witnessed in the history of humankind. Technologically dependent, globally interconnected, it offers seemingly limitless conveniences, choices, and opportunities. Yet this same modern civilization may be as unstable as a house of cards, fear complexity scientists like John Casti. All it would take to "downsize" our way of life—to send us crashing back to the nineteenth century—is a nudge from what Casti calls an "X-event," an unpredictable occurrence with extreme, even dire, consequences. When an X-event strikes—and scientists believe it will—finance, communication, defense, and travel will stop dead in their tracks. The flow of food, electricity, medicine, and clean water will be disrupted for months, if not years. What will you do?

A renowned systems theorist, Casti shows how our world has become impossibly complicated, relying on ever more advanced technology that is developing at an exponential rate. Yet it is a fact of mathematical life that higher and higher levels of complexity lead to systems that are increasingly fragile and susceptible to sudden, spectacular collapse. Fascinating and chilling, X-Events provides a provocative tour of the catastrophic outlier scenarios that could quickly send us crashing back to the preindustrial age: global financial "black swans"; a worldwide crash of the Internet that would halt all communication; the end of oil; nuclear winter; "nanoplagues"; robot uprisings; electromagnetic pulses; pandemic viruses; and more. You won't ever look at the world the same way again.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Complexity science expert John Casti thinks that disaster films might have the right idea. In his educated view, our advanced technological civilizations are built on a house of cards. The intricate, over-complex systems on which we depend are increasingly vulnerable to sudden, complete collapse, catapulting us back into pre-industrial chaos. After a catastrophic "X-Event," he notes, almost everything is at stake: communication, transportation, food, water, medicine, electricity, and finance. A wake-up call to an overnight apocalypse that could hit us all too soon.

London Times
“One of America’s greatest pioneers of simulation.”
Nassim Nicholas Taleb
"I am assiduous reader of John Casti’s books. He is a real scientific intellectual."
NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB
“I am assiduous reader of John Casti’s books. He is a real scientific intellectual.”
Kirkus Reviews
Award-winning mathematician and complexity scientist Casti (Mood Matters: From Rising Skirt Lengths to the Collapse of World Powers, 2010, etc.) lays out a series of worst-case scenarios--peak oil, pandemics, global economic collapse, bio- or nanotechnology run amok, nuclear accidents, terrorism, etc.--for the continued advancement of civilization. With just the right circumstances, argues the author, any of these can expand into an extreme event--X-event, for short--for which we will not be prepared and which will have dire consequences for our way of life. Casti sets aside such natural disasters as asteroid collisions, over which we have little control to begin with, to focus on the sorts of impending disasters similar to 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the financial crash of 2008--events that could have been avoided or at least mitigated with proper preventive measures. Most often, the catalyst for an X-event is the conflict between systems of different complexity levels. The 2008 economic crisis, for example, resulted from a disconnect between the increasing complexity of financial instruments and the government's ability to regulate these instruments. Here, Casti makes an odd error, especially for an author whose recent work focuses on chaos theory in economics. He claims that the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which limited the ability of banks to speculate, was partly to blame for the 2008 financial crisis. In fact, most economists blame the 1999 repeal of Glass-Steagall provisions prohibiting FDIC member banks from engaging in speculation. It's an unfortunate error, especially because the author's introduction, which succinctly summarizes chaos theory, and his conclusion, which gives reason to hope despite all the dire predictions in the preceding pages, are well worth reading and seriously considering. Despite some flaws, Casti provides thought-provoking speculation on the future of civilization.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062088284
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/12/2012
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,004,706
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.06 (h) x 1.14 (d)

Meet the Author

American complexity scientist and systems theoristJohn Casti, is cofounder of The X-Center, a Viennabasedresearch institute focusing on human-causedextreme events and how to anticipate them. Casti haspublished nearly twenty volumes of academic and popularscience and received his Ph.D. in mathematics from theUniversity of Southern California. He lives in Vienna,Austria.

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Table of Contents

Author's Note vii

Preamble: Putting the "X" into x-Events 1

Part I Why Normal Isn't So "Normal" Anymore 17

Part II Getting Down to Cases 59

X-Event 1 Digital Darkness 68

A Long-Term, Widespread Failure of the Internet

X-Event 2 When do we Eat? 92

Breakdown of the Global Food-Supply System

X-Event 3 The Day the Electronics died 109

A Continent-Wide Electromagnetic Pulse Destroys All Electronics

X-Event 4 A New world Disorder 122

The Collapse of Globalization

X-Event 5 Death by Physics 144

Destruction of the Earth Through the Creation of Exotic Particles

X-Event 6 Blown Away 161

Destabilization of the Nuclear Landscape

X-Event 7 Running on Empty 180

Drying Up of World Oil Supplies

X-Event 8 I'M Sick of It 195

A Global Pandemic

X-Event 9 Dark and Dry 212

Failure of the Electric Power Grid and Clean Water Supply

X-Event 10 Technology Run Amok 233

Intelligent Robots Overthrow Humanity

X-Event 11 The Great Unwinding 251

Global Deflation and the Collapse of World Financial Markets

Part III X-Events Redux 271

Notes and References 303

Index 318

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2012

    Interesting but not new ground

    The book, while interesting, reads like a laundry list of bad things that could happen to us. Most, and probably all, the X-events in the book are pretty well known. After a couple hundred pages of describing how Western civilization could collapse, the reader might start to get a little numb. The author could use a little more imagination in coming up with extraordinary and unexpected events.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2012

    Good Book

    Germane; reads easily; good research & rationale BUT not much advice for self preservation. This book will make you worry but it is not a "preppers" manual---much more than that.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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