VIDEO

Ugo Bardi – The Eco-Social Transition to the Seneca Cliff

27/05/2017
Category
Other / Lectures and debates

The problems of growth
Petroleum (Second Session)

The study of complex systems is a fundamental part of the scientific revolution of our times. From the study of the climate to that of socio-economic systems, we need to use new tools that go beyond the kind of ‘linear science’ typical of physics. Complex systems have their own rules: they are dominated by feedback effects and they always kick back; sometimes with a vengeance. To study these systems, we need to use tools such as system dynamics or agent-based simulations that tell us how the system may behave, although not necessarily how it will behave. Using these tools, we can discover a wealth of phenomena that are extremely important for understanding the world around us. One is what I call the ‘Seneca Effect’, which is another way of saying the system kicks back with a vengeance: far from perpetuating gradual trends, at any moment the system may collapse abruptly. When that happens with large systems, from planes to the stock market, many people can get badly hurt. The climate is one such complex system, as is the world's economic system. In the analysis of these systems we may also learn how to manage them, or at least stop thinking that we can force them to do what we want them to do!

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