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X-Events: The Collapse of Everythingby John L Casti
Synopses & Reviews
An acclaimed theorist offers a provocative and chilling warning: todays advanced societies have grown overcomplex and highly vulnerable to extreme events that could topple civilization
The modern industrialized world is a complex system on a scale never before witnessed in the history of humankind. Technologically dependent, globally interconnected, it offers seemingly limitless conveniences, choices, and opportunities. Yet this same modern civilization may be as unstable as a house of cards, fear complexity scientists like John Casti. All it would take to "downsize" our way of life—to send us crashing back to the nineteenth century—is a nudge from what Casti calls an "X-event," an unpredictable occurrence with extreme, even dire, consequences. When an X-event strikes—and scientists believe it will—finance, communication, defense, and travel will stop dead in their tracks. The flow of food, electricity, medicine, and clean water will be disrupted for months, if not years. What will you do?
A renowned systems theorist, Casti shows how our world has become impossibly complicated, relying on ever more advanced technology that is developing at an exponential rate. Yet it is a fact of mathematical life that higher and higher levels of complexity lead to systems that are increasingly fragile and susceptible to sudden, spectacular collapse. Fascinating and chilling, X-Events provides a provocative tour of the catastrophic outlier scenarios that could quickly send us crashing back to the preindustrial age: global financial "black swans"; a worldwide crash of the Internet that would halt all communication; the end of oil; nuclear winter; "nanoplagues"; robot uprisings; electromagnetic pulses; pandemic viruses; and more. You won't ever look at the world the same way again.
“I am an assiduous reader of John Castis books. He is a real scientific intellectual.”
—Nassim Nicholas Taleb, New York Times bestselling author of Fooled by Randomness
“Casti is at his best in presenting difficult philosophical ideas enthusiastically and lucidly, and in presenting everyday examples to illustrate them.”
In his highly provocative and grippingly readable book, X-Events, author John Casti brilliantly argues that todays advanced, overly complex societies have grown highly vulnerable to extreme events that will ultimately topple civilization like a house of cards. Like Nassim Talebs The Black Swan meets Jared Diamonds Collapse, Castis book provides a much-needed wake-up call—sounding a fascinating and frightening warning about civilized societys inability to recover from a global catastrophe— demonstrating how humankind could be blasted back into the Stone Age by a meteor strike, nuclear apocalypse, worldwide contagion, or any number of unforeseeable X-Events.
About the Author
John L. Casti received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Southern California in 1970. In 1974, after holding positions at the RAND Corporation and the University of Arizona, he became one of the first research staff members at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Vienna, where he stayed until 1986. Since 1992, he has been a professor and resident researcher at the Santa Fe Institute. He is also a professor at the Technical University of Vienna. The author of numerous books, he divides his time between Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Vienna.
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