X-Events: The Collapse of Everything

X-Events: The Collapse of Everything

IN THE MAIL: X-Events: The Collapse of Everything by John Casti:

An acclaimed theorist offers a provocative and chilling warning: today’s 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.

This looks pretty good and I’m hoping to give it a read ASAP.

Available now. Also in Kindle edition.


  1. Tainter’s Collapse of Complex civilizations covers similar ground without the excitement of out-of-context events like asteroid hits and the like. His premise is that civilizations slowly lose flexibility due to the ever-increasing weight of optimization of various elements of institutions and infrastructure. It gets to the point where all the slack is taken out of the system, and everything has to work *just so* or you get cascading failures. It doesn’t have to be a large event to tip things into a failure mode. Once things start failing, then things become threats that were not dangerous to the early and more adaptable society. Like a few tens of thousands of germans running madly through an empire incapable of responding effectively.

  2. Geez,

    We recently came very, very close to an “X-Event” recently when Madonna showed her right nipple at a concert in Istanbul Turkey.

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