I’m writing this from my home in Sonoma County at the end of an intense week of witnessing firsthand the devastation caused by the many current fires burning in northern California. While it’s hard to focus on anything other than the moment-to-moment developments of this still-unfolding disaster (which I’ve been chronicling here), it’s already clear that the implications for my part of the state will last for many, many years to come.
It’s amazing how instantly the status quo where I live has changed. The world my neighbors and I lived in when we all went to bed on Sunday night simply no longer existed by the time we woke up on Monday morning. Lives have been lost. Entire neighborhoods — thousands of homes — have burned to the ground. Businesses, hospitals and schools are now shuttered.
Having now experienced this personally — on top of watching news reports over the previous weeks of similarly abrupt “before/after” transitions in Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico, Mexico City, Las Vegas and Catalonia — I have a new-found appreciation for the maxim that when it arrives, change happens quickly — usually much more quickly than folks ever imagined, catching the general public off-guard and unprepared.
We humans tend to think linearly and comparatively. In other words, we usually assume the near future will look a lot like the recent past. And it does much of the time.
But other times it doesn’t. And that’s where the danger lies.
The Cruel Math
In 1987 a Danish physicist named Per Bak released a landmark paper introducing the concept of self-organized criticality. Bak observed that complex systems draw stability through an ongoing cycle of corrective collapses that keep the overall system from becoming too over-extended.
This post was published at PeakProsperity on Friday, October 13, 2017,.