November 7, 2023  2:00 PM – 2:25 PM
Inspiring & Interacting

Why Societies Fail, and What To Do About It

As every society confronts issues stemming from growth (such as theft or taxation or defense) it creates new layers to deal with it (such as a judicial system, or revenue assessors, or armies) which further increase its costs—a pattern Joseph Tainter has tracked across several civilizations.

In Collapse of Complex Societies, Tainter says that societies collapse because of “diminishing returns on investments in social complexity.” In other words, the more complex something gets, the harder order is to maintain. There's a solution, however: Modularization. A set of standardized, well-maintained components—each owned and improved by a discrete group—can reverse Tainter’s curse. Government built from shared infrastructure and re-usable components can scale, while reducing the complexity under whose weight they would otherwise be crushed.

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