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   READINGS
Ghosts of Empire
The New Asian Hemisphere
The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail--But Some Don't
Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age
Turing's Cathedral
Existence
1848: Year of Revolution
Lost Books of the Odyssey
Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder
The Bottom Billion
The Collapse of Complex Societies
The Mind of the Terrorist
The Black Swan

The Collapse of Complex Societies

By Joseph Tainter

Clay Shirky wrote, in his recent essay The Collapse of Complex Business Models: "In 1988, Joseph Tainter wrote a chilling book called The Collapse of Complex Societies. Tainter looked at several societies that gradually arrived at a level of remarkable sophistication then suddenly collapsed: the Romans, the Lowlands Maya, the inhabitants of Chaco canyon. Every one of those groups had rich traditions, complex social structures, advanced technology, but despite their sophistication, they collapsed, impoverishing and scattering their citizens and leaving little but future archeological sites as evidence of previous greatness. Tainter asked himself whether there was some explanation common to these sudden dissolutions. The answer he arrived at was that they hadn’t collapsed despite their cultural sophistication, they’d collapsed because of it.

 
© The Highlands Group Inc. 2011