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Reality Report: Interview with Noah Raford

Noah Raford is an urban planner and the Director of Space Syntax Limited in North America. He is currently pursuing his PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and recently gave a talk at the London School of Economics titled "Collapse Dynamics: Phase Transitions in Complex Social Systems." This show discusses how complex social systems become inflexible, leading to their collapse, and what strategies individuals aware of collapse might use to cope.

Noah's website is Space Syntax.com. The video and slide show of Noah's talk can be found here, and a discussion about the talk on the Oil Drum is here.

To download this interview visit blip.tv

Noah Raford is an urban planner and the Director of Space Syntax Limited in North America. He graduated from Brown University with a degree in Sociospatial Analysis and Design, then received his masters at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. He is currently pursuing his PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he focuses on the use of scenario planning and systems mapping to aid local governments in climate change management.

Jason Bradford (JB): I want to start by quoting from an email exchange that will become a major theme of this show. You wrote: “As I started getting more and more concerned about climate change and peak oil, I began to integrate these themes more explicitly in my projects. But I was surprised to find that even though almost everyone I was talking to was worried about it too, they would only say so in private. Why was this? Why do organizations like government tend to ignore the future consequences of their actions, even though they know they're digging themselves deeper into a ditch?”

This is a monster question, and one I personally struggle with. Why don’t we start by having you tell us the story of how you got to this point, and where this is taking you in your research?

Noah Raford (NR): Perhaps it is the name (Noah), but I’ve always been interested in issues of rapid social change... how it happens, why it happens, and how to deal with it.

As a kid I used to spend hours reading my parent’s old self-sufficiency books, like “One acre and security”, “five acres and independence”, the whole earth catalogue, etc. So I’ve always had this idea that things change, sometimes very fast, and that when they do it might be up to you to do something about it.

As a professional I’ve been lucky to travel the world working on a wide range of urban design and development projects, stretching from Oakland to Saudi Arabia, from Rome to Dakar, China to Australia and London. So I’ve been very fortunate to be involved with a lot really exciting sustainability work.

But one of the things I started to over the years was that even though most of the projects I was involved with were ostensibly “sustainable urbanism related”, very few decision makers, investors, or stakeholders were actually asking themselves the hard questions, like “How long can we continue doing this? What if things don’t go as planned? What happens if this fails?” Everyone was kind of assuming that things would keep going on as they always have, maybe with a few bumps in the road but with no major surprises or changes of direction.

As I started paying close attention to the evidence and indicators coming out of the scientific and security communities, however, I started getting more and more concerned with issues of climate change, energy security, and political stability.

Everyone in power I was speaking too privately felt the same way, but for whatever reason, very few people were speaking out about it or actually changing the way they were doing things. I began to get this feeling that something just wasn’t adding up, like there was a disconnect between what was really happening in the world and how we were actually behaving.

I mean, these were all smart, educated, and well connected people. But if the people in charge weren’t acting on it, then who was? And what if we don’t get our act together in time?

I started to have doubts that maybe we wouldn’t get our act together in time to prevent some of the really serious risks were facing around climate change, fuel availability and social stability.

So the question then becomes, if we can’t solve it, then what? What happens? Do we have any examples of where this has happened before or any models to help us understand what we might be facing and how to deal with it?

It turns out we do, and a lot of very interesting people have been thinking and writing about this in the last forty years or so. So seeking to understand what happens if we can’t or won’t change lead me to my study of complex systems and social collapse, which is really at the core of all my personal and professional work today.

JB: You recently gave a talk at the London School of Economics titled “Collapse dynamics: Phase transitions in complex social systems.” I saw a video of this on the web, which led to this interview. I am curious about how you were invited to the London School of Economics. When I think about a school of economics a whole set of prejudices comes up, the chief one being I assume they are teaching neoclassical economics, which means they are likely to believe that all scarcity is temporary, the market is full of rational actors, that economic growth will go on forever, and that growth equals progress. As we will discuss, this is not the cheery message of your presentation, so how’d you get through the doors?

NR: Stealth and trickery.

No, I mean Universities these days are massive places and despite the fact that as my PhD advisor once told me, “getting a PhD will ruin a perfectly good mind”, there are really a lot of clever, switched on people in them, even in the most conservative places and institutions.

The LSE is extremely strong at social science and organisational studies, the full name is the London School of Economics and Political Science, and being one of those hubs of power in the modern world, it is very well tuned into new developments and innovations.

So a lot of people there have been wrestling with problems associated with organisational learning, political change, etc., and about 10 or 15 years ago a woman named Prof. Eve Mittleton Kelly started making connections between complexity science and whole systems thinking and the problems she was finding in large corporate environments. She founded the LSE Complexity Programme, which is one of the original centers looking at the social complexity aspects of human society instead of taking a reductivist, mechanistic view.

I was a visiting scholar at the Cities Programme at the LSE, met her, and the rest is history. I am now a research fellow with the Complexity group and focus most of my work there on issues of urban complexity and social collapse.

JB: Let’s turn to the content of your presentation. Why don’t we start by defining the terms in the title: collapse dynamics, phase transitions, and complex social systems? What are these?

NR: The term “phase transitions” comes from physics, where a material like water goes from one state to another. When water goes from ice to liquid to vapour, for example, it’s going through phase transitions.

The cool thing about phase transitions is that they’re not linear. Things more or less stay the same up until some critical point and then, BOOM, everything changes and the flip into a new stable state.

The same thing has been observed in larger systems, like ecosystems flipping from forest to desert or populations of different species flipping from one species being dominant to another.

There is also a lot of evidence to suggest that the same process occurs in complex social systems, like our society. The archaeological record is full of examples of societies building up to tremendous complexity, often going through periodic bursts of growth and expansion like the Industrial revolution, overstretching their limits, then reverting back to earlier states through a process of collapse.

Collapse dynamics is the term I use to describe this process.

JB: I want to be clear about your reason for studying all this. Do you see that the human societies, right now, are at a risk of collapse, or perhaps even in the process of collapsing? And if so, are you trying to sort out what to do about it?

NR: Well everywhere is different of course, and collapse happens at different speeds.

If you look at the collapse of complex societies like the Inca or the Maya, their societies dissolved over a period of about 50 to 100 years, so within a single generation in some cases. The USSR basically collapsed over night. But other examples like the Fall of the Roman Empire happened much slower, maybe over 200 to 300 hundred years depending on you read. This is almost more like a slow descent or an evolution than a proper collapse.

But in short, yes, I think we (and by “we” I mean our globalised economy of tightly interwoven, high tech, high energy society dependant on long distance relationships) is basically on the verge of collapse. Some people even think we might already be in the midst of it as we speak.

The question of what to do about it is obviously key! I think the first step, for me at least, has been one of education. There is a lot of fear associated with the idea of collapse. You have to remember that surveys consistently find that between 30 and 40% of all Americans believe in Rapture, as in the Book of Revelations; a figure which is much higher amongst professed Christians. So when you say the term “collapse”, what most often comes to people’s minds if “apocalypse”.

That’s not necessarily the case, and the findings from archaeology and ecology tend to indicate that, yes, collapse occurs, it is actually almost a given, but that it is part of a process of collapse, re-organisation, and renewal.

I find that takes a lot of the fear out of it, or at least focuses the mind on what the real dynamics and historical examples of collapse can bring.

JB: You review four theories for collapse from the authors Perrow, Sornette, Tainter, and Gunderson & Holling. Are there commonalities among these theories and do they explain a wide array of phenomena in the real world?

NR: Unfortunately there probably isn’t enough time to go into the details of each of these theories, but I urge your listeners to Google the phrase “collapse dynamics” or my name and they can see the full slides and the video for more detail.

But the basic thread between these theorists is that complex dynamics systems, that is all systems with many different parts, interacting together, changing over time, behave in very similar ways.

Be they ecosystems, stock markets, or software systems, all of these systems appear to operate in a similar kind of way and, surprisingly, display a recognizable and quantifiable patterns of growth and decline.

Charles Perrow is famous for his theory of Normal Accidents, which argues that accidents aren’t just some kind of fluke or perturbation to the normal operation of things. Instead, he argues that they are an actually an inherent part of the way complex systems behave, particularly technical systems like you find in industry, science, cities, etc. and that the more complex and interconnected the system is, the greater its chances of catastrophic, cascading systems failure.

Three mile island is his classic example here, and he says that normal accidents are a function of many interacting parts, which all depend on each other not failing, that are beyond human comprehension or direct monitoring, and are subject to small, random events becoming huge, serious ones.

He calls them "unexpected, incomprehensible, uncontrollable and unavoidable"

Didier Sornette is a French mathematician and former head of the CNRS in France, which is like the NSF here in the US. He has been studying stock markets and comes to a very similar conclusion. He’s a fascinating guy and has an excellent book out called “Why Stock Markets Crash”, which I highly recommend.

Sornette has collected a lot of hard data on how stock markets behave just before, during and after crashes. And what he has found is that the more connected and integrated a stock market becomes, the greater the likelihood that people will begin to imitate each other and synchronise their actions. And the more synchronized and dependent upon each other’s signals they become, the more susceptible the entire market becomes to very small fluctuations, even random ones.

So what you see is behaviour like that described by Kindlberger all the way back in the 70’s, where some new opportunity sparks a rush to buy, leading to rapidly rising returns and a period of euphoria and bubble like expansion. Then people start to get manic and afraid, start paying attention to the smallest hint that the bubble is about to burst, and any little event or random fluctuation can spark a massive sell off and collapse. The final phase is a self feeding panic where people scramble to unload whatever they have, driving the entire system towards collapse.

JB: We are talking a lot about the risks of complexity, but Tainter argues that complexity arises because it offers rewards. How so?

NR: That’s a great point. There are obvious benefits to complexity and interactivity. It is pretty clear from our daily lives what the benefits of complexity and cooperation can be; the rule of law, extraordinary technological and material abundance, social stability, entertainment and education, etc. The benefits are all around us. We are all really living the dream right now more than anyone ever has in the entire course of human history. We’ve walked on the moon, we can travel anywhere on Earth almost instantaneously, we can enjoy the fruits and vegetables of summer all year round, we’ve got daytime TV, you know, we’re the kings! And this is all because we as human beings have learned to work together, cooperate, and share the benefits of complex social organisation beyond the confines of what I might be able to do by myself or how many people I happen to have in my village.

So yes, the process of how society becomes more complex and why is pretty fantastic is behind everything that makes our modern life so wonderful, at least on the surface that is.

JB: It all sounds great until we start reviewing what Tainter describes as diminishing returns and the sunk cost effect. How do these downsides develop?

NR: Well complexity can be a slippery slope. The more of it you have, the harder it is to go back. It builds on itself, so things can almost only ever get more complex.

Think of this in terms of agriculture and food supply. Imagine you’re a small tribe with only a few dozen people, living in a rich forest environment. All the food you need is literally hanging all around you, the proverbial “low hanging fruit”. Why would you need to worry about farming?

After a while your population grows until you eat up all the low hanging fruit and you can’t feed everybody in your clan. Somebody comes up with the bright idea of farming, and you practice the easiest kind you can, which is forest fallow cultivation, where you just burn a bunch of forest down, grow some crops in it until the forest grows back, then move on and burn another bit of forest and so on.

This gets you a bit more food and a bit more food, and so on, until your population keeps growing, you need a new approach, which lets you grow more people, which require more returns, and so on, until a few hundred or a thousand years later you find yourself driving your GPS controlled John Deer tractor, listening to a podcast from the internet on your iPod, cutting genetically engineered wheat on your thousand acre farm.

And your farm is fed by fertilizers designed in a lab by a bunch of PhD’s, watered through a complex system of dams, drainages, and water agreements, and then shipped by heavy rail across the country to a factory which will make buns, only to be shipped back around the world in a frozen container ship to be eaten in a McDonalds by a teenager in Japan.

You can see the benefits of complexity here. It means I don’t have to know how to make a tractor to be able to use one. Or I don’t have to be a farmer in order to eat.

But complexity comes at a cost, and the more of it you have, the more expensive it is.

As it turns out, the cost of complexity reaches a point where the costs actually outweigh the benefits. You get what economists call diminishing returns. This is where it costs more to run your system than you get out of it.

This is dangerous for several reasons. What once you could do for free, now requires a whole techno social superstructure, connecting hundreds of thousands of people together, consuming vast amounts of food and energy. Just for your hamburger bun.

And all this complexity isn’t just expensive, it actually becomes tremendously cumbersome and rigid.

Think about an example in your own life, say in local politics or even family dynamics. How hard is it to change something, when it is so intertwined and connected to everything else?

There is no way you can just start over. It becomes nearly impossible, and you get what the psychologists call the “sunk cost effect”, or in the UK, the “Concorde Effect”. It’s when so much money has been spent on something that, even if it’s a bad idea, you can’t just throw it away. You just have to keep on plowing resources into it until it explodes.

That’s the world we live in. And that’s what Joseph Tainter argues was behind the collapse of every major civilization in history.

It is also, I should add, why it is so hard for politicians and the powers that be to actually publicly do anything about it. Which brings us back to the beginning of our conversation.

JB: You use a term interchangeably with the sunk cost effect called “organizational lock in” that I like very much. Do you see “lock in” as an insolvable problem and therefore collapse as inevitable?

NR: I’m not sure if it is insolvable in fact. I think there are some fantastic examples of groups of human beings changing tack mid-stream and doing radical, completely unexpected things. The human mind is capable of amazing reconfigurations under the right conditions.

But I think the odds are really against it!

This gets into some really fascinating territory about mental models and how we perceive the world. It’s not just that complex systems require more resources to go on, become expensive and rigid, and therefore more subject to collapse. It happens in our heads as well.

We’re all marvels at looking at the world, taking in all this tremendous, shifting, ambiguous data, and then making sense of it somehow in our heads. We take a bit of information and immediately, almost automatically, parse it into our understanding of how the world works.

Of course we don’t really know how the world works, but we think we do, and psychologists call this sense of how we think the world works our “mental model”.

What is funny about human beings is that once we think we’ve figured out the world, we tend to stop thinking about it as much. We pay less attention to the details, to the surprises and the outliers. We go on a kind of autopilot. And this autopilot stays the same even if the world around us begins to change, which it inevitably does.

Just like a civilisation, things start to get dangerous when the gap between how we think the world is and how it really is starts to grow too large. When this happens, our actions no longer correspond to the best survival strategy, and we get locked into old ways of doing things.

Even when these ways don’t work any more, and we start to see evidence of our failure, we tend not to change our perception of the world, but instead convince ourselves even more that we’re right and the data, the world, must be wrong. This is where the term “cognitive dissonance” comes from, which comes from Leon Festinger’s great book in the 1950’s “When Prophecy Fails”. That’s about a UFO Doomsday cult in Chicago, that predicted a UFO was going to come and destroy the world on a certain date.

And what did people do when the UFO didn’t come to destroy the earth? Did they give up there beliefs?

No, they believed in them even stronger, claiming that the strength of their devotion actually convinced the aliens not to blow up Earth and that they had saved the world.

That’s the process which happens in our heads all the time, in our families, and in our organisations and societies. In that sense, lock in is inevitable and collapse is the natural outcome of that. Unless you’re able to do what John Boyd called “asymmetric fast transients”, that is, rapid shifts in strategy or tactics to realign yourself to a changing world.

JB: What is it like to be someone who lives within the system and runs up against lock in? Is this why the Greeks have the story of Cassandra, because this is a timeless and painful position for certain people to be in?

NR: This is a great question. The emotional dimension is so important when you start to grapple with stuff. Let me tell a little story about that.

When I used to live in San Francisco, I would walk every day through UN Plaza and take the BART to work. There are these beautiful stone columns that line the walkway from the BART to City Hall, right there by the UN Plaza. All the names of the member states of the UN are carved on these columns and they end in the Charter of the UN inscribed on the stone in the ground. Each column represents a year, starting in 1945, and the countries which joined that year are inscribed in the stone. So the columns start in 1945 and one by one, work they way up to 1950, 1960, and so on. All way until about 1991 or 1992, when the Bosnian war started getting really intense.

And then the names stop. They just stop, somewhere around 1993 or 1994, if I remember correctly.

In fact some of the names of the shattered states in the Balkans are partially carved in, as if the UN meant to finish them, but then had second thoughts. And there is nothing after that. Just blank stone columns. Every day I used to walk past those blank columns and think, “Wow, this is a monument to when the world began to come apart”. I think back and imagine that future archaeologists will dig this place up someday and wonder, “why did it stop then? Why did they stop recording on these stones?”

And it’s because the world started changing faster than they could carve.

So getting back to cognitive dissonance, I think there is a tremendous disconnect between the realisation that we are living through a tremendous period of dissolution, yet all around us things seem to be better than they ever have been.

In fact, they ARE better than they ever have been. Just look at Dubai. The biggest, shiniest, most luxurious buildings you can imagine. People tell you, “Stop worrying! Things are great! Human life has literally never been this grand before.” And there are right, and you think, “Maybe I’m just crazy and pessimistic. Why worry so much?” Maybe you secretly hope to the collapse to come sooner, even though you dread it, just to prove yourself right. And if you’re at all empirical or evidence based, you have to start questioning your own mental models at some point, too. “Maybe the world won’t collapse”, you think, which produces both doubt and fear at the same time.

But this is where history can be our best friend. History, and watching nature very, very closely.

When you look at Tainter, and his study of classical collapse, what you see is that in every case, life was always as good as it was going to get just before the fall. In the Mayan civilisation, for example, you have the greatest rate of monument construction just before the collapse. It’s like Dubai now. We’re at the height of our powers and blowing our trumpets at loudly as can be to scare away the darkness.

But history reveals that this never works. Ever. And nature shows us why.

When you get too big, and too rigid, you can’t move.

And then the world changes around you and when, it is taking all you have just to keep standing up, all it takes is the slightest breeze to knock you down.

That is what happens in nature all the time, it is what Lance Gunderson and Buzz Holling call “The Adaptive Cycle” of change. You fight, win, build up resources, exploit them, get slow, the world changes, and everything falls apart. But falling apart lays the seeds for renewal and reorganization, so that life can go on and the cycle can continue.

Contrary to panic and doubt, I find that realisation tremendously consoling. Life goes on, collapse is natural, and there are bigger forces at work than just our own fears, doubts, and insecurities.

“Sit back and get ready for the ride” is a much better strategy to handle collapse than clinging to the past with white knuckles until you have a heart attack.

JB: Given the global society build upon fossil fuels, are we going to experience a collapse that is qualitatively distinct from previous ones, or can we still learn from the past and be prepared somehow?

NR: That’s a great question. Some people argue that we are so overstretched and technologically dependent that yes, the nature of our own collapse will be unlike anything we have ever seen before. I think there is some logic to that, given our dependency on fossil fuels and foreign food imports in particular.

But then again if you look at collapse events like the Black Death 14th century, or the fall of Nineva in Assyria, you realize that it pretty much can’t get any worse than that. You’re talking about 50 to 70% of the entire population of the known world being wiped out in the Bubonic Plague. It is hard to imagine the social, emotional, and economic impact of that. That’s not just like starving to death or having the light go out. That’s having to bury every member of your family, being terrified to go near other humans, the world not making any sense any more, and feeling completely alone, terrified, and isolated. People just went nuts there. Rapes, orgies, you name it. It was literally like all bets were off. And then the plague came back again. And again. And again.

Imagine the trauma, the post traumatic stress of this. When you think about it in those terms, I can’t imagine our collapse being much worse!

You look at the collapse of the USSR, if you read Orlov’s book for example. That’s like a walk in the park compared to the Black Death. But even in that kind of worst case, doomsday scenario, there were bright lights. Dan Carlin’s show, “Hardcore History” has a great episode on this. Some people think that the Black Death actually laid the framework for the Renascence, for example, by decimating the Church, ruining the state, and leaving room for something new and fresh to arise.

Getting back to Gunderson and Holling, the Panarchy guys, this is exactly what happens in nature. And it is happening all the time, simultaneously, at multiple time scales and extents. So again, this gets back to the feeling of calm that comes from learning that actually, collapse is natural, collapse is good. Collapse is how the world works. It’s how Mother Nature transforms and replenishes herself.

Back before Y2K I was really freaking out a bit and had a year’s supply of food all stored up, gas cached away, etc. I was telling people to buy gold, learn to hunt, whatever. I thought that could be the end. And mind you, it might have been if we hadn’t figured it out before hand and poured billions of dollars into fixing it. A lot of people like to dismiss it because we fixed it. But that wasn’t like the UFO story. This was a documented, observable bug that really could have caused some serious damage if we didn’t fix it in time. But thankfully we did.

Anyway, while I was preparing for this, I was talking to a Ghanaian friend of mind, from Ghana in West Africa. He grew up with power outages, civil wars, water shortages, etc.

His responds was, “Ah, worst case scenario I starve to death. So what?”

I’ll never forget that. It sounds crass or fatalistic or something, but there is a wisdom in that statement. It’s not like he was giving up and volunteering to die. Quite the opposite. He had life experiences that taught him what he could and could not control, what he should and shouldn’t worry about. And this acceptance gave him a sense of realism that is really quite liberating.

It’s like death. Admitting your own mortality can take a huge load off your chest. It helps you focus on what you, personally, can and cannot do, with what you really want to do with your life.

The same thing is true for collapse. It’s not like any of us can prevent collapse from happening. Not you, not me, not Barak Obama, not Steve Jobs, not the Pope. No one is charge anymore. It’s just too big, too fast, and too complex.

Collapse is going to happen, almost certainly in our lifetimes, but probably in the next 10 to 15 years. We have no idea how it is really going to unfold, but it will probably be fast, messy and scary.

But studying collapse dynamics can be very reassuring, on two levels.

First, philosophically. The evidence always shows that collapse is not the same as Apocolypse. Apocolypse is the end, with a Capital E. Fire and brimstone and Ragnarok and all that.

Collapse will be the end for a lot of things. It might even look like Ragnarok for a while – a year, couple of decades, a few hundred years, who knows. People will die. But collapse is just –an- end, not –the- end. It’s part of how the world works. It’s natural. It’s a cycle. It’s also a beginning. A great book exploring this is called “After Collapse: The Regeneration of Complex Societies”. It’s a bit academic, but it provides lots of archeological case studies on how people survived, thrived, and rebuilt in the generations after the collapse of historic societies.

So knowing this helps ease the heart and sharpen the mind, I find, on what can and can’t be done about it.

The second reason it helps to understand how collapse occurs is more tactical. It relates to what we can be doing NOW, before the collapse, in order to increase our chances of survival and success.

This is where John Boyd comes in handy again. I mentioned him earlier, but in case your listeners aren’t familiar with him, John Boyd was a US Air Force Colonel in the 1960’s and 1970’s, who completely revolutionised military tactic and strategy.

He started out flying jets in Korea, and from his study of aerial combat, he started asking why some pilots were so much better at dog fighting than others, even if they happened to have less advanced aircraft. The answer, he found, was the ability to perceive your environment, accurately understand what was happening, and be agile enough to change your direction in an novel, unexpected, or surprising way. In other words, the secret to winning in a stressful, potentially deadly environment, was awareness and mobility. If you out perceive and out manoeuvre your opponent, you’ve got them. Even if you are smaller, weaker, or poorer.

So how does Boyd relate to collapse?

Boyd defined strategy as “a mental tapestry of changing intentions for harmonizing and focusing our efforts as a basis for realizing some aim or purpose in an unfolding and often unforeseen world of many bewildering events and many contending interests.” “... an unfolding world of many bewildering events and many contending interests...” That sounds a lot like what we will be facing when the current superstructure of law, power, food and energy collapses.

The point of strategy was “to improve our ability to shape and adapt to unfolding circumstances so that we, as individuals, groups, or as a culture and nation-state, can survive on our own terms.”

“... survive on our own terms...”, that means freedom, right? Not starvation, not servitude.

So the first step to successful strategy is to perceive what is really going on. Look at your life. Where do you get your food? Where do you get your money? Who provides your security, and your water, and your electricity? Start asking yourself, critically, how fragile are these systems? How vulnerable are they to change?

Do the things in my house, the things I spend my day doing, the people I spend my day with, do these things put me more at risk or less? Do they minimize my exposure to change, or leave me open and vulnerable to collapse? Do they tie me down? Do they cloud my heart and my mind and make me less aware? Do they slow me down and make me less agile?

If the answer is yes, than you’ve got a clear goal for helping minimize your exposure to collapse and maximise your chances of success when it really kicks off.

This is the essence of what Boyd’s called the OODA loop. Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. Observe what is really happening... match your mental models to the world. Don’t get caught up in old beliefs and belief structure. Then orient yourself within it, relative to you goals, wants and desires. Then make a plan and do it. Then repeat. See what the results of your actions were. Observe them. Did it get the result you wanted or not? If not, re-orient, decide on a new course, and act.

Observe, orient, decide and act. That’s the OODA loop, and it’s what differentiates fast, agile, successful species from slow, rigid, dead ones. It’s also what will help you survive collapse, whether it happens overnight, over a year, or over a decade.

To conclude, I offered a few take away message from my LSE presentation. These were: 1.Look around 2.Stay light 3.Experiment 4.Learn quickly 5.Stay smart 6.Keep your options open. A good bumper sticker summary of this might be: “minimize your exposure, maximise your resilience, pay attention, and dance!”

Of course there are an infinite number of ways to do this, but the point is to start doing it.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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