The Collapse of Civilization


Cite as:

Deborah MacKenzie New Scientist 5 Apr 2008: 28-35.


The cover story of April 5's New Scientist offers commentary by NECSI president, Yaneer Bar-Yam, on the nature and vulnerabilities of modern civilization. The increasing interconnectedness of global systems both enhances our abilities, and leads to collective risks. Any segment of the global community threatened by natural disaster or disease will have severe repercussions for the rest of the world.

"Losing pieces indiscriminately from a highly complex system is very dangerous," said Dr. Bar-Yam. "One of the most profound results of complex systems research is that when systems are highly complex, individuals matter." According to Bar-Yam, understanding the weaknesses of civilization is critical to our ongoing existence. "Complexity leads to higher vulnerability in some ways," he said. "This is not widely understood."

Complex systems science is a vital tool for protecting society worldwide from such dangers as pandemics, natural disaster, terrorism, climate change, resource exhaustion, as well as economic crises.

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