In the past, the Earth was populated by numerous and disjoint civilizations that thrived almost in isolation. The Sumers, the Incas, or the Romans are just a few prominent examples. Because the temporal and spatial correlation between those civilizations was very limited, if one happened to disappear, many more remained. However, the Earth today is populated by one single globalized society. If this one fails, that’s it. But any form of progress is accompanied by an inevitable increase in complexity. This is true only until critical complexity is reached. In order to continue evolving beyond critical complexity, a civilization must find ways of overcoming the delicate phase of vulnerability in which self-inflicted destruction is the most probable form of demise.
- Stricter laws.
- Less laws.
- Reduction of personal freedom (limit migrations, birth control, etc.)
2. Learn to live in proximity of critical complexity. This is risky because the system is:
- Extremely turbulent and volatile. Terrorism, crime and fraudulent behaviour thrive close to criticality.
- Very difficult to govern – impossible to postulate and reach goals.
- Unexpected behaviour may suddenly emerge.
- On the verge of widespread violence.
3. Increase its critical complexity. This may be accomplished in essentially two ways:
- Creating more links (making a denser Process Map). However, this makes governing even more difficult.
- Adding structure (nodes). Certainly the preferred option.
Terrorism constitutes surely one of the major concerns of modern democracies. The number of terrorist attacks has more than tripled in recent years. In terms of location most instances of politically fuelled violence and terrorism may be found in Asia, not in the Middle East. In fact, our research shows that Asia enjoys a far greater complexity growth rate than the Middle East. Approximately one-fourth of trans-national politically motivated terrorist acts are inspired by religion. A similar amount is accounted for by leftist militant organizations. Nearly 40% of terror acts are perpetrated by nationalist and separatist groups. As expected, there is no single clear cause. A mix of factors, which ultimately lead to some form of social injustice, poverty, failing states or dysfunctional politics are what fuels terrorism. This suggests that the problem is indeed due to very high complexity. We are also painfully aware of the fact that modern democracies naturally lack efficient tools to effectively deal with highly complex socio-political-ethnical and religious problems, without neglecting the fundamental economical and ecological dimensions.
Where can terrorism develop with greater ease? Terrorists need to hide. For this reason they thrive in high-entropy environments, such as failing or rogue states, ghettos, where there is little social structure. It is in highly complex societies (doesn’t mean developed) that terror groups find geo-political sanctuaries. High complexity, as mentioned, comes in many forms:
- Little structure but high entropy (Third World countries)
- Much structure, low entropy (Western democracies)
- Much structure, high entropy (the future global society)
Terror groups generally prefer high entropy-dominated complexity because of the Principle of Incompatibility: high complexity implies low precision. This means that hunting them down – essentially an intelligence-driven exercise – is difficult because of lack of precise information, laws on privacy, etc. Because of the fact that globally complexity is quickly increasing, it will be increasingly more difficult to identify terror groups especially in ambiguous countries, i.e. those which harbour terrorists but are willing to close an eye. The problem with Western countries is that they are becoming more permissive and tolerant, leading to an overall erosion of social structure in favour of entropy. In underdeveloped countries it is almost impossible to create new social structure hence it is entropy that causes the increase of complexity. In the West, the more intricate social structure is being eroded by loss of moral values and relativism. The result? in both cases an increase in complexity. Following the above logic, we can state that:
- High complexity is necessary (but not sufficient) to lead to terrorism.
- Terrorism in an almost “obvious” consequence of a highly complex world.
- The Principle of Incompatibility and terrorism are intimately linked.
Can complexity be used to anticipate conflicts, crises and failing states? The answer is affirmative. It is evident that a society/country in the proximity of its critical complexity is far more open to enter a state of conflict, such as civil war or simply declare war on a neighbouring country. The conditions that a society must satisfy in order to switch to a conflict mode are multiple. As history teaches, there is no established pattern. Many factors concur. But it is clear that it is more difficult to take a well-functioning and prosperous society to war than one which is fragile and dominated by entropy. In a society in which the entropy-saturated structure is eroded, the distance that separates a “peace mode” from a “conflict mode” is much smaller and switching is considerably easier. The idea, therefore, is to measure and track complexity region per region, country per country, and to keep an eye on those countries and regions where high complexity gradients are observed. Regions where complexity increases quickly are certainly candidates for social unrest or armed conflict. How can this be accomplished? What kind of data should be used? Good candidates are:
• GDP-per capita
• GDP-real growth
• Infant Mortality
• Inflation rate
• Internet users
• Labour force
• Life expectancy
• Military expenses
• Telephones mobiles
• Telephones-main lines
• Total fertility rate
• Unemployment rate
If we fail to cope with and, ultimately, move safely past criticality, there will be no second chance, no other civilization will take over. Clearly, the biological lifetime of our species is likely to be several million years, even if we do our worst, but as far as technological and social progress is concerned, that will essentially be it. Globalization of course accelerates the increase of complexity until criticality is reached. Critical complexity, on the other hand, is the hurdle that prevents evolution beyond self-inflicted extinction. Since none of the ancient (and not so ancient) civilizations have ever evolved beyond critical complexity – in fact, they’re all gone – they were all pre-critical civilizations. There has never been a post-critical civilization on Earth. The only one left that has a chance of becoming a post-critical one is of course ours. But what conditions must a civilization meet in order to transition beyond criticality? Essentially two. First, it must lay its hands on technology to actively manage complexity. Second, it must have enough time to employ it on a vast and global scale. Complexity management technology has been introduced by Ontonix in 2005. This leaves us with about 30-35 years.