X-Events: Complexity Overload and the Collapse of Everything

X-Events: Complexity Overload and the Collapse of Everything

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by John L. Casti
     
 

A page-turning exploration of eleven scenarios that may trigger the collapse of the modern world

A renowned systems theorist, John 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

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Overview

A page-turning exploration of eleven scenarios that may trigger the collapse of the modern world

A renowned systems theorist, John 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.

Editorial Reviews

NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB
“I am assiduous reader of John Casti’s books. He is a real scientific intellectual.”
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."

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.

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:
9780062088291
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/12/2013
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
326
Sales rank:
1,118,424
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

What People are saying about this

Nassim Nicholas Taleb
“I am assiduous reader of John Casti’s books. He is a real scientific intellectual.”

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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