The Technium

Collapsitarians


There’s a new mood: collapse.

Former President Reagan defined a recession as when your friend lost his job, and a depression as when you lost your job. Collapse is when no one has a job; in fact there are no longer any such things as jobs to be had.

Longdoom

Google Trends showing number of news references to “collapse” (red) and “depression” (blue).

Doom and collapse are in the air. We could think of the Long Doom as the opposite of the Long Boom. The stock market has been falling steadily for a year and not even  the usual optimists are claiming it has bottomed out.  Like a vicious circle bad news breeds more bad news, and so at the moment the prospect for the near future is for more of the same bad news.

How low could it go?

That’s the question on everyone’s mind. Once you start thinking about it, you can imagine it going very low: unemployment, massive layoffs, huge migrations, class warfare, classic war, and without much effort, you soon arrive at the collapse of civilization itself.

Surprisingly there are collapsitarians who are rooting for the quick arrival of the Long Doom. Perhaps not surprisingly they come in all kinds of flavors. Some hail from the hard wingnut left, some from the hard wingnut right, and some from next door.

Collapsitarian

As far as Google knows the term collapsitarian was coined by Jim Kunstler in a January 26, 2009  New Yorker article on Dystopians.

There seem to be about six species of collapsitarians:

Luddites, anarchists, and anti-civilization activists (see The Unabomber Was Right) who are trying the hasten collapse as soon as possible.

Goldbugs, survivalists, Y2K holdouts, and slightly right wingers who see collapse as the penalty for modern liberalism.

Conservationists and greenies who see collapse as the penalty for environmental sins.

Somewhat leftist anti-globalists who see collapse as the penalty for globalism.

Critics of American super-power who see the collapse of America as an inevitable imperial overreach. Many are native academics, many reside outside of America, many are prominent historians.

Former financial employees who see nothing good in, but no escape from, this doom.

The idea of progress has been slowly dying. I think progress lost its allure at the ignition of the first atom bomb at the end of WWII. It has been losing luster since. Even more recently the future has become boring and unfashionable. No one wants to live in the future. The jet packs don’t work, and the Daily Me is full of spam. No finds the Future attractive any longer.

The only thing left to believe in is collapse. That’s not boring! The end of civilization would be terribly exciting, and unlike any future we could imagine, probably more likely. Dystopias are a favorite science fiction destination now.

We all are collapsitarians these days.




Comments
  • Jeffrey Benner

    Even though the term “Doomer” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doomer has a much longer usage history, it does have a more limited associated with the Peak Oil camp. I see a reference as early as 2007 [ http://carolynbaker.net/site/content/view/178/ ] and I believe the term is older than that.

    I do like the term Collapsitarian as a general bridge-all term for all the End is Near schools of thought.

    And just to make clear, I regard Collapsitarians as a whole as a social pathology – all advanced civilizations are capable of collapse, of course, but I think it’s unlikely to occur at this time. If you’re a true Collapsitarian, maybe it’s time to log off your laptop and run to the hills. Because you can never have enough canned beans and shotgun ordinance if the End is coming.

  • Justin Long
  • Josef Davies-Coates

    Hello,

    I’m a collapsitarian but don’t fit your classification (and nor do my friends at the Institute for Collapsonomics)

    We see collapse as inevitable because current economic/ political/ social systems are both unjust and unsustainable. And unsustainable means “cannot be sustained”.

    Whatever way you look at it the “triple crunch” (climate, energy, economy) is happening now and not going away. Of course in many poor countries, there is also the “triple crisis” happening now too: HIV/Aids, Poverty, Conflict.

    However, there are lots of things we can do to make the crunchy crises less painful that they otherwise would be.

    With crisis comes opportunity, afterall.

    Get in touch with the Institute for Collapsonomics.

  • GlassJack

    My good friend Tom Deater once said to me something that seemed overly glib and simplistic at the time, and now has proved more of a universally profound truth: “there’s just too many people.” That’s the long and the short of it, as anyone can see, but we often get wrapped up in how to make more efficient this or that, when the real problem is too many drawing breath.

    The Chinese are hip to it, and so they do things that we find appalling, like limiting birth. But we have yet to walk in those shoes… but we will. It’s the elephant in the room that even people on this site aren’t smelling. If you don’t solve that problem, it doesn’t matter how many little cloth bags you haul around Wal Mart. If you do solve that problem, the others all go away with it.

    So what does that leave? birth control? Well, we all want to survive, to have OUR PARTICULAR genes selected for. So we all eschew that as a concept. And we don’t much care for genocide, not when it’s us anyway.

    So again, what’s left? Well, anyone who understands game theory realizes that every action has a reaction. So think of what’s happening, and then plot the reactions, which will occur like this, in my guess:

    We’ll continue like this. Talking much, doing little.
    There will be more and more people, less and less oil, more and more hunger, wars for resources.
    People will be increasingly uncomfortable. That will change the zeitgeist of the day to make the idea of reproducing morally reprehensible, governmentally prohibited, and severely punished, with the nastiness of that equation escalating until the “problem” of your babies living and taking up some powerful person’s precious oxygen is mitigated to palatibility again. Then in a moment of largesse, they’ll let you have yourself a little baby. And they’ll have four.

    To quote the great Kurt Vonnegut: “And so it goes.”

  • Q

    Civilisation is definitely headed for collapse. China’s economy has been growing at double digits for decades, and India, Brazil, Vietnam and other very populous places aren’t far behind. All these people will want cars, energy intensive foods, and the western lifestyle. That is not possible, and oil production has already been flat for a couple of years now.

    On the financial side, the industrialized world is heavily indebted already, and has promised to fund the retirements of its aging and shrinking population. (Japan is the world’s 2nd biggest economy, has the fastest aging population and doesn’t allow much immigration, can’t feed its people without importing food, and has a debt of 240% of GDP and growing!). The current model of the U.S. being the demand, and the developing countries being the supply will end, when the developing countries realize that the Fed can’t deliver on maintaining the value of the currency (by monetizing debt), or when the congress is forced to borrow just to pay interest and non-discretionary spending. If the first scenario happens, the world will stop lending the US money, and it won’t be able to afford imports of anything any more. If the second one happens, the citizen will be a tax slave to the state, which will be a debt slave to the outside world.

    Either one of oil and debt will cause MAJOR disruptions to the functioning of the world, and it will be a long time before a new equillibrium is reached. In the mean time, it will be chaos. Good old fashioned Hobbesian warre; every man against every other man, by force or wile, with life being nasty, brutish and short.

    Already, social security is now running deficits, US debt is approaching 100% of GDP, and trillion dollar deficits are forcast every year for the next decade in the US.

    • http://www.kk.org Kevin Kelly

      @Q: I applaud your exactness, and it spurs me to bet. I will gladly bet you real money you are wrong. If you are certain you are right, do you care to make some “easy money”?

  • Tony Filanowski

    We are in a period of mass extinction. Is that collapse enough for you?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocene_extinction

    It may be that people extrapolate from their own group and imagine that the world is like the people they know. Its easy to say “”What collapse?” When you and your friends are OK. Is it possible that the US could end up like Palestine, Haiti, Somalia, Congo, Nigeria?

    A mental collapse is characterized by destructive behavior. The world is presently caught in a fit of destruction. A trillion US dollars has been borrowed to conduct two senseless wars. It appears the collapse already happened but we are in denial because we are insane. Destructive behavior isn’t recognized as such by the insane. How destructive do we have to get before its recognized as such? The Gulf Oil Spill? The US, the bastion of civilization is operating secret prisons where prisoners are tortured. The US is arguing in court that children may be held as prisoners of war: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN04615603

    The US incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country.

    Look at the future. Take a tour of Detroit courtesy of Time magazine:

    http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1864272_1810098,00.html

  • Crazy Joe

    I wonder how Terrance McKenna’s “Timewave Zero” theory fits according to the novelty and habit model on that Google Trends graph?

  • calvin and hobbes

    Tea baggers,and now the peakies. Why do all these “chicken littles” revel in the idea of collapse? Because fear is their currency and from this fear comes power.

    I’ve also noted that fear mongering also comes with someone willing to sell you a relief. It’s basic marketing- create anxiety (or fear) and offer a reasonable solution; Tea baggers buy guns, peakies horde food and water, both buy a cabin in the woods.

    Q’s litany is all true but excludes one fact- humans tend to survive because we have the ability to adapt. Read Guns,Germs and Steel.

  • Sacrednistic Synchronomer

    Woah the Woa, Yo! ‘k, KK?!?

    Changing the way we view inter-relations and become more creative with our abilities is hard to instill in momentum bound Minds such as most here-Continua. The current social experience were all sharing is more akin to a crunchy roll, rather than collapse. Believing in the absence of momentum never achieves results… this goes for the ‘bad’(as we have seen more and more recently) as for the ‘good’ (which takes longer to see usually, in that there’s usually more of it.. so much so that the Mind can be unable to sense the scale of it for a while and thus the present Goodness is unseen and therefore unaccounted for during self-processing reflection/building up of newer choice potentials and vectoring.

    A crunchy roll is something that happens when: the need to jump from a moving vehicle is the sanest choice; jumping onto the top of a moving train to get someplace much saner than where you were; push yourself to lunge beyond someone and then pulling her with, while curling up around her to be the one who hits the floor first to avoid being pulped by an insane driver’s vehicle.
    These are the Perfecting examples of coordinated and succinctly obvious choices for how our actions are to be shared with each other to continue Beauty, Joy, connected Creativity, Love and Life.

    These are days (short to medium term) for refining and precision adjustments in our Minds’ processes and inter-relevancy towards addditional abilities for creations of energetic Usabilities . Thoughts are intrinsically becoming more pico-pivotal into manifestation and this continues in scaling up towards the entry into Milky Way resonance continuously and more intensely than the other World-Change Times experienced by our consciousnesses for a very long amount of time. The manners which we enscribe as process patterns within our selves sall be emulated by multiple potentials that are beginning to intersect and mingle. Let the crowding natures be helpful, hearty, flexible and response-able and roll with the crunch.

    We’ll dust off our jeans, as we get up and stretch away the funk, we’ll be in better ways than lamely programming complete failure and possible seizre… No for me, Mahalo.

    Aloha!

  • Court Merrigan

    I think of them as “doomers”, if only because that’s much easier to say, type, and remember. That Kuntsler fellow is an attention whore of long standing so it’s not surprising that he’s even coined a new term to describe himself.

    Whatever you call them, a true-blue collapsitarian can be distinguished from someone merely frightened by the frothing lust with which they actively hope for the end to arrive.

    As for the idea of progress, I think maybe it’s just that we’re arriving at a more realistic picture of what “progress” entails, and that perhaps it is not nearly so straightforward, or simplistic, a process as its historical advocates have liked to think. I think that in future, provided the whackos don’t get their way – and even if they do get their way in the US somehow, they won’t in Asia and elsewhere – and outlaw evolution (ahem), we’ll tend to think of progress in more evolutionary terms. To wit, that it’s got fits and starts and is much more a meandering process across a plain than a steep hike up a mountain.

  • evobrain

    Your pessimistic article caught me quite by surprise. I thought you were the eternal optimist. Danny Hillis thinks that we have stopped thinking about the future because the future used to be 1984 and 2000 and now those are in the past. It’s true that jetpacks and flying cars never materialized, but we do have cellphones – although we can’t make video calls just yet.

    For a more optimistic view of the future I suggest watching WALL•E. Well I should qualify that by saying it has a happy ending.

    BTW, I think WALL•E is an excellent portrayal of AI. Really. It offers a counter example where true AI evolves in isolation. That AI then spreads through the robot masses like a sort of benign computer virus. Anyway, I think it’s a fantastic movie and thought it should have won the Oscar for Movie of the Year.

    Cheers
    evolutionarybrain.blogspot.com“>Danny Hillis thinks that we have stopped thinking about the future because the future used to be 1984 and 2000 and now those are in the past. It’s true that jetpacks and flying cars never materialized, but we do have cellphones – although we can’t make video calls just yet.

    For a more optimistic view of the future I suggest watching WALL•E. Well I should qualify that by saying it has a happy ending.

    BTW, I think WALL•E is an excellent portrayal of AI. Really. It offers a counter example where true AI evolves in isolation. That AI then spreads through the robot masses like a sort of benign computer virus. Anyway, I think it’s a fantastic movie and thought it should have won the Oscar for Movie of the Year.

    Cheers
    evolutionarybrain.blogspot.com

  • Kevin Kelly

    Thanks for the links to other collapsitarians. I’ll add them to the list.

  • Terry Heaton

    You failed to mention the fundamentalist evangelicals who are leaping for joy that the Rapture is near. They’re not only collapsitarians; they’d hasten its arrival, if they could.

  • Richard B

    I offer apocrophobians as yet another specie of collapsitarian, with due thanks to Jamais Cascio for the original apocrophilia, as above.

    Summarizing an apochrophobian view, the emerging genetic, nanotech, robotic technologies, which Bill Joy called “knowledge-enabled mass destruction (KMD)” in 2000, will dramatically change the destructive capabilities of individuals, nations, criminal networks, companies and others. How will society respond? Will the response be sufficient now that just one mistake may preclude any do-overs.

    Quality examples include Nick Bostrum, Bill Joy, John Leslie, Sir Martin Rees, John Robb and Carl Sagan. Perhaps even Kevin (his earlier Dealing with Rogue Technologies is a great post).

    I add my own lesser efforts at http://www.sustainablerights.blogspot.com as a request for needed, sincerely appreciated, feedback.

  • Aleks

    m I the only one who is optimistic? As I see it, lots of crappy things collapsed:
    - finance industry: never knew why were those guys making so much more money than me, and what their contribution to society was.
    - overpriced housing market: now I can afford a better home.
    - american car industry: I am not a fan of SUVs.

    Lots of good people are feeling the sting too, but nothing like the primary victims. Lots of good people were in serious pain before the crisis.

    At the same time, lots of good things are happening, They might not all be in the news, but I see it around me.

    - Obama: his policies mirror everything I wished for, and more. That scares me a bit, since I am very failible when it comes to politics.
    - I’ve just booked an environmental review of my house. The guys doing it are booked month in advance.
    - Not so sexy, old-school startup I funded is getting much more traction with VCs. The pie-in-the-sky business models are not so interesting any more.
    - Slowdown is forcing a lot of us to reevaluate more-is-always-more lifestyles.

  • nick

    @Time Wave Zero: McKenna’s last laugh. He was an intellectual trickster and a brilliant theorist, and in pulling off the 2012 meme, he’s proved his theories about the nature of human experience.

    I think Collapsatarians should be called Collapsaholics. The more they get, the more they want. And just like other -holics, it’s an unhealthy thing to get into.

    And yes, the gloom affects me too.

  • Faze

    To be overtaken by gloom in these transient circumstances demonstrates such a shocking shortage of spiritual resources and plain old stoicism that I’m really amazed that anyone will admit to it. What have these people been doing for the past 20 years? Yeah, I’d hate to lose everything. But I’d like to think that even if I do, I’ll still have joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart…

  • Michael Jensen

    There are those who aren’t rooting for the collapse, but bemoaning it — who don’t think it’s a function of “environmental sins” as much as an outgrowth of our evolutionary drivers.

    Kunstler isn’t, to my mind, an “attention whore” as Court Merrigan describes him — he’s someone who sees trend lines that scare the bejeezus out of him, and is trying to gin up the attention he believes his main theme (the unsustainability of an oil-based economy) deserves.

    There are a panoply (or is it merely a myriad?) of serious issues we have to confront, any of which are unlikely to be easily fixable — climate chaos, economic ponzi schemes, resource depletion, ocean collapse, water wars, and much more — that most of us blithely ignore, carrying on with the same behaviors that worked five years ago.

    A good friend and I have been paying close attention and documenting (and japing at) an array of these trends (see Apocadocs), and have been saddened by how little has changed in the last few years, even as the evidence of tipping points becomes ever more obvious. I suppose we might be called Collapsitarians or doomers — or maybe merely “awake.”

    The scale of response — socially, politically, culturally — is unlikely to be sufficient to stop these trends, unless a serious mobilization occurs… and so collapse seems nearly inevitable.

    I don’t celebrate, I don’t cheer it. In fact, some days I’ve been found to weep.

  • Tom Buckner

    Perter Lamborn Wilson/Hakim Bey has been something of an inspiration in cultural creative circles, having invented the idea of the Temporary Autonomous Zone. Burning Man is a famous TAZ.

    In a way, we’re now experiencing a collapse of imagination. How many possibilities, how many different approaches, might we not even allow ourselves to think of?

    Vernor Vinge made a good point in one of his novels, that the better you run a society, the more complex it will get, and thus harder to maintain. According to that view, periodic collapses are inevitable. Robert Anton Wilson, drawing on Giambattista Vico’s ideas of cyclical history, also posited the notion that societies would grow more complex until they collapsed under their own weight (he meant the weight of regulations and laws, but the principle was the same). And Wilson, even before McKenna or Vinge, drew upon the work of French economist Georges Anderla to propose that the endless doubling of knowledge would soon lead to… something.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Anderla

    I, for one, find the present economic crisis more hopeful than frightening in the sense that it’s waking us up to follies that made it inevitable. In a sense, we’re like the drunk who may finally have hit bottom.

    Are we smart enough to get into trouble but not smart enough to get out?

  • Tom Crowl

    The Technium is a complex chaotic system or, if you wish a system of systems and subsystems. As such it is a living system.

    Complex Chaotic System characteristics:
    *Interactions are nonlinear
    *Contain feedback loops (+ and -)
    *Cause and effect intermingled
    *Evolves in time (not static)
    *Always to a degree unstable and unpredictable.
    *Can self-organize and adapt (not necessarily well!)
    *Capable of Symmetry-breaking, self-organization, pattern formation, and spatio-temporal chaos
    *System criticality is a fundamental of all living systems. (A Goldilocks zone at the threshold between order and chaos called criticality. For good discussion on biological networks see http://www.sciencenews.org/index/feature/activity/view/id/38750/title/No_gene_is_an_island )

    Further:

    *Theoretically, ALL complex, chaotic systems eventually collapse.
    *Systems can be modified so that theoretical collapse is extended to a point beyond the useful life of the system rendering the issue moot.

    Thus, to survive it will be a constantly evolving and changing system.

    SO here we are… And as you, Hillis, Ted Kaczynski, myself and others agree the Technium is right now a pretty sick puppy.

    And our evidence from the very, very meager experience we have of civilizations… is that so far none has managed to avoid periodic regression… often very severe regression.

    (Hence the Drake Equation factor regarding survivability of technological civilizations)

    Kaczynski and others of the eco-anarchist, anti-civilization wing make the not unreasonable assumption that this is inherent because of the integral link between technology and human group scaling, that is, the growth of complex civilization.

    WHILE TECHNOLOGY IS CONCOMMITANT WITH HUMAN GROUP SCALING… IT IS NOT THE FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM.

    However, it is critical to the solution!

    This is my area of exploration. I believe we can begin to look at some other civilization factors rationally and draw a few tentative conclusions about where possible problems may lie… or at least areas for exploration.

    The longing for a romanticized “pre-technology” hunter-gatherer past is false. But it provides the clue to the true problem.

    Its not the simple technology they long for. ITS THE CLEAR ALIGNMENT OF SELF-INTEREST, RESPONSIBILITY AND THE GROUP (their target of EMPATHY DRIVES). And this relates to concepts like freedom, initiative, creativity, happiness etc. but this will turn into way too long for now)

    (see my post for a bit on issues relating to problems in scaling: Altrusim vs. Self-interest in social networks http://culturalengineer.blogspot.com/2009/02/self-interest-vs-altruism-problems-in.html)

    The step from hunter/gatherer DID involve a significant de-humanization process (LOSS of CONTROL over fundamental drives: Authoratarian forms and slavery)…

    It was a form with some success for a while… but it won’t work… (and China will find that out and adapt or die)… but it did increase freedom for some.

    Adam Smith could be considered as representing the next stage. And its a good model though there are some confusions that have arisen, again with scale because of the failure to clearly understand the relationship between investment and the commons…

    (see http://culturalengineer.blogspot.com/2009/02/leadership-adam-smith-on-ignoring.html )

    This is going on too long for now but where this is leading is this:

    That the answer we’re looking for… IS in the area you discussed at the Web 2.0 Summit regarding this need for new models.

    Our cultural evolution is in our hands.

    We CAN find the elements that previous civilizations have failed to see.

    I believe I’m on the track of some essentials. Or at least beginning to recognize neglected parts of the problem.

    And ways to modify the structures without breaking them.

    But Its going to be more about consciously modifying some social structures than where money is thrown or not thrown.

    WE URGENTLY NEED TO RE-ADJUST OUR FEEDBACK LOOPS!

    The Individually-Controlled/Commons-Dedicated Account concept arises out of this search and tentative conclusions (and very much incorporates concepts you discuss in article “The Bottom is Not Enough”). I’ll lay out more detail since its integral I believe (the political aspect is a great catalyst but not the only feedback loop it addresses).

    Its not the only fix needed and maybe I’m wrong but…

    You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. – Buckminster Fuller

  • Alex Tolley

    Doesn’t anyone remember the doom and gloom of the 1970′s after the luster wore off the 1960′s? Then, as now, we worried about social collapse, pollution, overpopulation. This spawned a host of good, dystopian future movies as a reflection of the times (Soylent Green, Silent Running, etc.)

    This is Collapsarian idea is just a short term social mood swing that will reverse in due course. Unless you really believe that the modern era is ending, much like the end of the Roman empire 1500 years ago.

  • David

    For those who would like to see, this collapse allows a transition to something greater. http://2009twilightoftime.wordpress.com/

    Blessings,

  • Monk

    What Calvin forgot to mention about *Guns, Germs, and Steel* is that several human groups were almost wiped out because of guns, germs, and steel!

    Forget tea baggers and peakies. Peak oil has now gone mainstream. Our surprise announcer?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/apr/11/peak-oil-production-supply

  • Tom Crowl

    Posted a cleaner version of my thoughts for now on my blog with several references and links back to here:
    Civilization, Complexity & Collapse – The Search for Levers

  • Wayne

    test

  • Nancy Jane Moore

    There’s another species of collapsitarian that you didn’t mention: Those who think the collapse is the result of spending way too much money on the wrong things (overblown lifestyles, investment vehicles no one understood, get rich quick schemes, unnecessary wars), investing way too little money in the basics (infrastructure, health care, disaster planning, education), refusing to regulate or otherwise pay attention to industries careening out of control (investment banking, energy), and not addressing the 900-pound gorilla (or maybe the human-eating Bengal tiger is a better metaphor) of climate change. That’s a leftist viewpoint, but it’s a lot broader than the ones you listed.

    I’m not a collapsitarian — even though I see the current collapse as an obvious result of all the above chickens (and a few others) coming home to roost and even though I’m working on science fiction that assumes such a collapse — mostly because I really don’t want to see a complete collapse. Yeah, it could be interesting and yeah, we certainly paved the way for it, and yeah, we might even build a better world out of the ashes if we manage to figure out how to hold onto the valuable things we have now while tossing out the crap we don’t need, but an awful lot of people — billions of people — are going to suffer. I don’t want to watch other people suffer and — to be honest — I’m not really into suffering myself.

  • Tom Buckner

    KK, it just hit me that you seem to have left out one species of collapsitarian: Plain Old Malthusians.

    Some say Malthusians have been proven wrong, but Malthusians would say Malthusians simply haven’t been proven right yet, but soon will.

  • Tom Crowl

    Some academic support for a sense of self-determination as vital for human growth and well-being: Self-Determination Theory – An Approach to Human Motivation & Personality from Ryan & Deci, University of Rochester

    My contention is that this is another problem area in civilization scaling issues. Again it’s NOT technology; It’s Unaddressed issues relating to SCALE.

  • Matt

    Sounds like my brother who was so prepared for Y2K that when it came and went without a hiccup he felt vaguely disappointed. I think he had started to see it as an opportunity to reinvent himself in a new world with new rules. And of course as one of the prepared people he would be well positioned.

  • Alvis Brigis

    7th species: Generational theorists like Strauss and Howe that believe entropy builds in social systems as they grow, requiring punctuated change and creative destruction. Perhaps this falls into the historian category, but I’d argue these guys lean more toward macro level social psych.

  • Jamais Cascio

    Hey Kevin — “collapsitarian” is a great neologism. I’ve been using something similar for about four years now — “apocaphilia”.

    • http://www.kk.org Kevin Kelly

      @Jamais: Your “apocaphilla” is a great term too.

  • Lilac

    http://carmenisacat.blogspot.com/

    FYI….catestrophism has been around for some time in scientific circles. It isn’t necessarily a new thing you know.

    But yes….reems of work are dedicated to studying the minds of religionists and coreligionists whose central creed is doomsday. The external threat to given groups of people who share like minded ideologies.

    Problem is…this failure is an internal disintegration and doesn’t take any hostages.

    The Quran points to this when Allah relates:

    “Don’t look for one (beating/disaster), look for many.”

    What is the meaning of this?

    I’ll postulate a guess for you. Bear with me.

    Back in the day…back in the day when one prophet signaled doom for one distinct tribe or community…it was clear. The prophet would show up, specify the need to be addressed (One Allah) and warn the entire group that if they didn’t mend their ways…then they would suffer inevitable and COMPLETE destruction. And they did.

    With the last prophet however..the game got bigger. And different. It changed and upped the ante and this is what the world is facing now as one community with one last prophet. The destructions will seem arbitrary and to some, the destructions will appear to target certain peoples and especially peoples with similar doctrines. Katrina for New Orleans, HIV/AIDS for homosexuals and those who don’t protect their sexual integrity, financial collapse for the greedy, tuberculosis for the impoverished…

    But that isn’t what it is….it isn’t that Allah picks and chooses one group over another except to say that one group does know the answer and feels peace about the future..because they know its inevitability and permanence, recognize the temporary nature of the temporal.

    Here’s the deal…Allah created the world and it follows Allah’s prescription for it whether we like it or not, whether we know it or not and whether we agree to follow or not. It is encapsulated in one simple analogy in the Quran…by it I mean the INNATE and INHERENT nature of the laws of Allah. It relates that the sun and the moon were asked to submit willingly or unwillingly. They chose willingly.

    Everyone follows the innate laws..there is not choice and fact of the matter is…consequences are part of the act of following unwillingly. Willingness to abide by the law avoids natural consequences (natural for lack of a better word like CREATION which isn’t the same as nature).

    We can say to you as non muslims…there is an obscure point in Sharia law which is known by those who know of the personal conversations of the prophet with those around him at the time…and that law would be regarding banking.

    Banking…the central notion behind this “collapse” which seems to be more important than anything right now….isn’t just don’t be a userer. No. Because some types of lending/borrowing are allowed in Islamic law.

    The important part of that law which appears in one of the hadith goes…to paraphrase:

    A man was identified to the prophet as a person who basically sold his IOUs. In other words, he made loans to friends and others and when he tired of waiting for the payoffs, he simply sold the IOU to another like-minded individual who paid a small fee to buy the loan papers. The prophet told him that he had become a kafr (disbeliever) with that action because Allah forbids the transfer of loans between loan givers.

    And isn’t that what has created this immense financial mess? Loans on loans, loan bundles sold as investment tools, on and on like that.

    It was destined to fail because it violates the INNATE laws of ECONOMICS.

    Those that don’t believe in Allah/God cannot fathom that Allah bothers with the stock market. And really, Allah doesn’t even have to be around to monitor the behavior of those involved in it. His laws are there and do the work for Allah. Of course, he could if he wanted to and has promised that one day…he will. He will finalize the whole conundrum.

    peace

  • iconoclast421

    Of course we are not going to totally collapse. That’s always been a load of nonsense.

    But consider the fact that exports of the world’s #2 economy have fallen 50% in one year.

    It is quite obvious that “a large portion” of this global economy IS going to collapse, and has in fact already collapsed. It will continue to collapse until energy costs are driven down. The ones who survive it will enjoy newfound prosperity now that there is less competition for available resources. It’s pretty sick… but it will go on for some time. Until 21st century technologies are released to the public, *and* the public shows itself to be smart enough to use them responsibly, we will continue along the “Kunstler track”.

  • RobertJ

    I can’t relate the notion of short-selling directly to these, but sticking to wall-street-speak, many of these could be said to try to turn a profit by talking down the market. Locally grown vegetables and sustainable technology would both increase in value, while the strategic positioning some have done on the political arena would also pay off if doom cave to shove. Many of these are not acting more or less rational than a stockbroker, given their initial beliefs.

  • JohnJ

    Has this mood/mindset/worldview been examined along cultural lines?

    Is is more or less prevalent in the ancient civilizations of China and India?
    My guess is that Collapse is so familiar to them that they find the subject tedious.

    Is is a feature of “young” cultures still informed by a recent “frontier” experience?

    “Mad Max” came out of Australia and found an ready audience in the USA, where the banality of modern life is measured against the stuggles of our pioneer ancestors.

    Was “Max” as popular in Europe? Russia?

  • Jeremy

    I’m pretty damn excited about a collapse. Well, not really. I’m excited for what the collapse will bring. Technology has been advancing quicker and quicker, but our culture lags way behind. Once the fall happens its do or die time.

    People are going to realize the real world is in here, in the Web. They will realize the things they do in the Web have real world impact. Once people start working toward real world change in the virtual world, anything is possible. It’s just a matter of reaching that critical mass… getting enough people online *pushing* ideas out into the real world.

    Within my lifetime I expect anyone to be able to earn enough to provide basic necessities just by interacting with the web, promoting ideas, products, systems, corporations. If the world has the resources for everyone, why does it take so much work to get them? Why should I spend my time doing anything but advancing culture and civilization in any way I see fit?

    One day soon there will be self repairing self replicating robots that can build anything. How can civilization as we know it today exist with technology like that? My grandchildren will see these times as we see feudal times.

    Here we are working the fields, consuming media which tells us which products to buy, which ideas have merit, which politicians can win. Huge corporations sell *our* time, minds, and resources. Well we’re gonna start selling them to ourselves. We don’t buy anything but the best.

  • Pierre Rousseau

    Kevin,

    You know humans have always resorted to comedy or religion when their logic invariably fails them. So I have only disgust for your pathetic hammering of the word “collapsist.”

    humansingularitydotnet
    wpdotlodowndotnet
    meaningmakingdotnet

    Now put a dot in the place of “dot” in these words and put it in your browser and wake up. There is no collapse of the technium. The only collapse about to happen is human species extinction, and you are helping it along.

    Pierre.

  • Mike Mechanic

    Hey Kevin:

    Have you come across anything yet that says Kunstler wasn’t the one who actually coined the term? You know, like, pre-Google?

    • http://www.kk.org Kevin Kelly

      I have not looked.

  • Thomas Jefferson

    You forgot PEAKOILERS, which I am one. Since our entire society runs on fossil fuels, what happens to us all when it gets way to expensive to run our society because all the easy oil is gone?

    we got a little preview last summer. The price of oil is now depressed due to two reasons, spectulators reigned in their insanity and our current economic depressive state.

    Since the price of oil is based upon the US dollar, the dollar goes down, the price of oil goes down. And couple that will the loss of jobs, bankruptcy, foreclosure, etc, there just isn’t the kind of money in circulation right now to float the petro dollar. Because there isn’t the kind of demand to rocket it skyward yet again.

    And since the M3 was discontinued by the bush administration (M3 gives the amount of dollars currently in circulation) know one knows for sure just how fiat our economy really is. But given the fact that they don’t want us to know anymore, I would say, things aren’t all that shiny out there.

    Now, I’m not a doomist persay, but having read the tea leaves over the past 10 years, we as a nation are in some very deep trouble. If Obama can get us off the petro dollar and on to some other yet unnamed form of curancy base, then we will be reasonably okay. By okay, I mean there won’t be a massive collapse of the financial sector.

    However, if it’s not done within the next 5 to 10 years, be prepared for a massive stagnation of the worlds economy. Since everyone uses fossil fuel.

    It’s all tied together. Think of something through out the course of your day and try and figure out how it’s not connected via one shape or form to a fossile fuel aka oil, coal or natural gas. I bet you, you won’t be able to.

    The “recovery” that everyone talks about in mystical terms, if we ever do recover, will leave us with a vastly changed landscape. The life that we currently enjoy (a very unique time in history, by the way), will never return. Note how the “recovery” is never really defined.

    Learn to live with less, learn to live simpler, learn to live without. That is the future we are facing.

    And if the current models for climate change are correct, by the time I hit my 90′s, which should be around mid century, all I have to say is, make sure you don’t live near the coasts, have lots and lots of bug spray and learn to filter your own water.

    Yay!!! all brought to you by the American Dream of rampent consumerism!!! Weeeeee!!!!

  • John (Jshot)

    KK:”The only thing left to believe in is collapse. That’s not boring! The end of civilization would be terribly exciting, and unlike any future we could imagine, probably more likely. Dystopias are a favorite science fiction destination now.”

    That quote is so true for those who want to see mass destruction as if they will be immune by it’s cataclysmic affects. I think it’s better to have a measured (and sober) level of concern that exists somewhere between complacency (non-action) and paranoia (over-reaction).

  • David Mathews

    Not only is the collapse approaching, it is occurring right now.

    We’ll all live long enough to witness the end of technological civilization with our own eyes.

    After that comes extinction.

    Anyone who imagines otherwise is simply self-deluded. It is easy to hide from reality when entertaining technological utopianism and civilization immortalism.

    Nonetheless, everything that is living dies. This applies as much to the individual as it does to nations, cultures and civilizations (including our own).

    Every species which originates eventually goes extinct. This was true of the trilobites and dinoaurs, and also true of all of humankind’s ancestors, and likewise it is true of the Homo sapiens.

    Anyone who tells you different is either a liar or a fool.

    http://www.flickr.com/dmathew1

  • Stephen Lark

    The dominant trend: Collapse
    The emerging trend: Transformation

    Evolution’s Edge: The Coming Collapse and Transformation of Our World by Graeme Taylor

  • Valkyrie Ice

    Collapsitarians, Apocaphiliacs, Doomsayers… they all share one simple ancestor. Ned Ludd.

    If you study history those periods which were transitions times between social and economic systems are marked by economic upheaval, social upheaval and massive disruptions of “the way things have been”

    The printing press caused a revolution. Before it was created, literacy was uncommon, the educated where those who were either very wealthy or involved in the church. Then all of a sudden books were cheap and common. Literacy was common. And the church and the wealthy no longer had a knowledge monopoly.

    Yet during that transition, chaos reigned. The Church split into the Catholic and protestants, the economics of feudalism gave way to the era of merchant princes. The Bible was translated into the common tongues, and the society that WAS ceased to exist as it BECAME the society that followed.

    Again with the Industrial Revolution. The Age of the Wealthy Farmer came to an end, and the Age of Wealthy factory owners began. Rural life was disrupted as the old ways gave way to the new ways, and people moved out of the farmlands into the cities. Life was uprooted, disrupted and changed beyond recognition, but again, it was only the death of the old ways as new ways came into existence.

    Today is no different.

    The old ways are dying. The age of corporations is passing. The age of working in the same office for your entire life is fading away. Wealth, as we have always known it, is changing. We live in a time of change, and like all changes, it is wild, uncertain, and unpredictable, but there is certainty that from the change will come new ways new ideas, and new lifestyles.

    We are not at the beginning of the end, we’re just at the beginning of the next stage. As we progress into a Post Industrial World there will be hardship, and sad to say, suffering. But as technology has experienced a exponential curve, so to has the transitional phases. The Printing press took nearly a century. The Industrial Revolution less than a quarter of that.

    So we can hope that likewise, this phase will be shorter than the last as well.

    And all that doomsaying and luddism accomplishes is an increase in the amount of suffering that must be born to bring about the new reality.

    Because it is certain it won’t bring back the old one.