Saturday, 19 October 2013

What can analysis of historical patterns tell us about the probable future?

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Probably not much - because we are not in any reversible pendulum swing such as has happened before in history, but off the chart.

There has never before in the history of the world been a society which has experienced 200 years in which economic growth has outstripped population rise, in which almost all the children born in the world are expected to live to adulthood (and where this has been the situation for up to eight generations in some places), in which the total world population was so many-fold larger than ever before, in which the average age is so very old in some countries and so very young in others, in which geographical economic inter-dependence is so extreme, in which population movements are so massive, in which all the wealthiest and most powerful countries have massively sub-replacement fertility, in which all the wealthiest and most powerful countries have abandoned religion wholesale in public discourse and among the ruling classes ... and so on.

And we also live in a world where in public discourse these subjects are either taboo or communication has been hemmed-about with such tight restrictions and punishments as to make clarity and honesty impossible.

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As I say, the world is in uncharted territory; we are far beyond any extreme of any previous pendulum swing, and indeed it looks as if the pendulum is still swinging, ever further away from any previous equilibrium point.

We can, perhaps, learn some causal principles from history, but causal principles interact - so in a complex system we cannot predict without precedent; and there is no precedent for the current situation.

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