Unstable Global System

John Robb applies some engineering principles to the global environment and argues that,

If we look at today’s global environment we see a moderately unstable system. Our global interconnectivity has outpaced our ability to dampen excess. It is a relatively high performance system that is increasingly controlled by global markets. The old dampening functions of borders, distance, government, etc are quickly fading. The problem is that this is a system that can quickly reach for excess whenever rogue feedback is introduced. Worse, there are people actively working on ways to introduce this rogue feedback. The long-term solution to this, is to both build more stability into the system (decentralization) and to create dynamic market-places for security that will aid us in quickly dampening rogue feedback. Unfortunately, we are far from realizing that goal, since our current view of the world is based on old models.


This conclusion also calls into question the efficacy of the idea that merely increasing connectivity is an answer to our problems. Increasing connectivity too fast, in a system without intrinsic dampening or control systems that work, will only accelerate the chaos (human nature doesn’t change as fast as technology).

Not all change is good and even good changes can have bad unintended consequences in the short term. The shift from feudalism to capitalism, from agrarian to industrial to information-based economies, from Communism to democracy and the free market, and other massive changes came with a price. We’re still paying some of it, in fact.

In the longer term, this instability may lead to creative destruction and the rise of a much better model in the Middle East and elsewhere. Then again, a wise philosopher once said that, in the long run, we’re all dead.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, Environment, Middle East, Science & Technology, Uncategorized, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. vader says:

    Then again, a wise philosopher once said that, in the long run, we’re all dead.

    Is that a philosophy we should be keyne about?