The Collapse of Complex Systems (Part 1) | Nathan Wilson
This is the first of two essays by The Mallard’s Nathan Wilson on the collapse of complex systems.
In the coming years, we are going to witness the partial collapse of various complex systems. The world we knew no longer exists and we will never go back to it. No tears, no wishing what could have been; we have to accept that and move on.
These will be summarised in three sections, each representing different aspects of these complex systems: Sri Lanka representing politics, the US representing culture, the UK managerialism, and the rest being demographic (I know some of this overlap, but shhh).
Firstly, a complex system can be thought of as a system with multiple variables that interact with each other. These can extend from ant colonies to the entire universe. Our world is made of these systems and its interconnections, and when they break down, trouble normally follows.
So, why does this matter?
Well, this matters a lot as we live inside and around multiple man-made complex systems (the global economy, nation-states, etc.) and they are slowly starting to break down. The reason why they are breaking is complex but, in short, it is a combination of being both a perfect storm of various chickens simultaneously coming home to roost, and the subsequent denial of these conditions (burying too many heads in the sand).
For Peter Zeihan, we can think about this as so: all our institutions and thinking has been based on the idea of “more”. More people, more money, more stuff, more productivity. From the 1400s to 2020, we entered a special period in human history and now it is going away, and we will not return to it in at least the next hundred years.
For those that like dark comedy, comedian Bill Hicks once stated that the reason things do not work anymore is because our existing systems are no longer relevant. As such, the systems that have been set up during this period will most likely either collapse or need completely new ideas in order to amend them. What this will mean is that, to move forward, we must be willing to not just accept and address these newfound conditions, but seek to move through them. In turn, we need new philosophies and ideas about how our economies and politics should work.
But before that we must observe the four core issues and complex systems that are failing and a respective case study. I will not do one on economics (I hope someone who knows more than me at the Mallard could attempt that one). Instead I will focus on Politics, Culture, Managerial and Demographic. Each of these complex systems is going to have several difficult decades going forward, nearly all of which will cause at minimum one major nation to suffer collapse in the coming years.
Sri Lanka: Politics
For many, the recent protests in Sri Lanka have largely gone under the radar. This is because very few people outside of South Asia have ever heard of the political dynasty that has ruled Sri Lanka for the last few decades.
Sri Lanka did not collapse because of China nor any other outside force or pressure. The nation is failing because of its own political and subsequent economic choices. This has been because of poor political choices, which have led to poor financial choices for the country.
In truth, the core reason for why nations fail is because they lack the ability to assert honest self-assessment. In political systems, this means that they lack the coherence to stand back and look at what is working and what is not. Such things only magnify under restrictive and dogmatic political systems (dictatorships and political dynasties). As such, Sri Lanka is no different with the Rajapaksa family dominating politics in the country since the 1980’s. In a nutshell, collapse of the political system was inevitable within the country, as post-Covid issues continued to plague the nation.
Sri Lanka and what has happened will become the norm in the next years, across the Global South. The failures of political administrations will only magnify and embolden people to revolt at an increased rate. Misunderstanding this topic remains rampant and the need for external actors to lay blame remains high. The collapse of these political systems is because of the internal failures within the political elites of their respective nations. Poor decisions filter down into the rest of the nation too, inflation, agriculture etc.
Sri Lanka will be the template for other nations political failures, in the coming months and years. This will be especially relevant across Latin America, Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa. In turn, this will lead to a new migrant crisis, especially afflicting Europe, in the next few years. Consequently, Europe will have to choose one of two options. 1. Get serious. 2. Get stuffed. In short, an entire political system around the world will slowly start to fail and the need for entirely new systems will emerge. The first major litmus test for this is the Italians, then we will see what really can happen.
The US: Culture
I understand that this is possibly controversial within some circles (like this one), but the US will most likely be fine. I make no illusions that right now it looks improbable, but I will explain.
America’s problems are at its heart down to the steady cultural decline of its institutions from various mediums. One aspect which drives this decline is America’s education networks, communication channels, and the rise in moral relativism. This was mostly a product of the 1960s and its loss of the Norman Rockwell “American Dream”. As a result, if the UK is infected with Blairism, then the US is infected with Americanism. What is meant by Americanism is that the country has a cyclical nature of understanding itself, from its monarchy presidents found every eighty years from Washington, Lincoln, FDR (and maybe 2nd Term Trump), to similar periods of self-doubt and expansion. This is largely down to what America is at its core; it still retains its wild heart (so does Mexico), and whilst this is a positive and it’s also a negative. Right now, we are seeing the effects of its more negative nature. As Andrew Breitbart used to say, politics is downstream culture. When the pendulum swings back, like it has often done in American history, a central balance will mostly be found; this will filter and course-correct America’s cultural institutions.
The failures of these cultural institutions are not something that has gone unnoticed. If you had asked an American during the aftermath of 9/11, amidst the subsequent national unity, if American conservatives would storm the Capitol Building in twenty years time, they would not have believed you at all. The shortness in time, from one extreme to the other, remains (at least to me) absolutely remarkable. This has been observed by many non-western figures like Igor Panarin, Wang Huning, Zheng Weiwei and Bilahari Kausikan, not just western individuals like Allan Bloom and Thomas Sowell.
If you compound that with fantastic agriculture conditions, great geography, the Amish, and its wild heart all of this will help the country going forward. In short, America will be fine because it has the youth and subsequent kinetic energy to establish itself once more. At its core, America is a chaotic place yet radically conservative in nature. But right now, it needs to rid itself of its cultural decay, when done it will thrive again.
I cannot say the same for the rest of the West, who’s similar cultural decline is more immediate and severe. We need to find our wild heart again and our vigour. These next few decades will be soul destroying for the European continent and it’s because of our own culture.