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June 08, 2020

A Guy Predicted That Society Would Devolve Into Violence and Chaos in 2020

I got this from Tim Pool.

This is from 2012.

I don't know what "cliodynamic" means. I assume it's a variety of psychohistory, charting great trends that come in cycles.

VICE: Can you humor me and explain your cliodynamic theory of violence in layman's terms?

Peter Turchin: Sure. Historical studies show that society goes through long-term cycles of violence: There's a build-up for roughly a century, then a period of violence, or upheaval, for ten or 15 years. Then people get tired of it and the next generation goes back to being peaceful. It's then the grandchildren of that generation--who never experienced the severity of upheaval firsthand--who are likely to start causing problems again. My theory suggests that it will be 2020 when the US hits a new peak of violence.

Um, rather nailed that, huh?

[VICE:] In your view, what causes these upheavals?

Historically, the trouble has always come from people with power, and the number of those people who want the most power. There are too many political entrepreneurs who are all trying to get power, and they get frustrated, which is how revolutions start: when members of the elite try to overturn the political order to better suit themselves.

Years ago I would have said that sounds like commie bullshit but of course I know different now.

Andrew Stuttaford just wrote about this.*

In the course of an article I wrote for National Review back in 2016 on the political impact of automation, I mentioned the work of University of Connecticut's Peter Turchin, a pioneer of cliodynamics, a heavily data-based area of study that uses the detection of patterns to decipher the past and, from that, 'predict' the future (in 2012, Turchin related how one line of analysis suggested that "the next instability peak should occur in the United States around 2020").

Yup, psychohistory. Nailed it.

Whether one agrees with Turchin's math or the shadow of historical determinism that wafts through it, much of what he has to say also makes, intuitively, a great deal of sense.

Specifically, Turchin has warned that "elite overproduction" can be a precursor of turmoil to come. To oversimplify, this occurs when members of the elite (or those with the talents to join it) become too numerous for society to accommodate their aspirations.


Well over a third of 25- to 32-year-olds in the U.S. have a bachelor's degree (or above), up from one-eighth in 1965 (and there will undoubtedly have been a dramatic increase in the number of university graduates in almost every Western country).... University graduates earn more and are considerably less likely to be unemployed than those who could only manage high school. Nevertheless, the growth in the number of graduates has not been matched by the number of jobs that require degrees. This sets those who earned them up for a disappointment that won't have been made any easier by the fact that, far too often, their degrees will have been of limited value in the first place. Increasing the quantity of degrees is one thing, preserving their quality quite another. In 2012, the New York Fed reported that "during the first decade of the 2000s, many college graduates were forced to move down the occupational hierarchy to take jobs typically performed by lower-skilled workers." Unemployment may not yet be a problem for them, but underemployment is.


These "elites" -- um, would-be elites, let's say -- are upset that people who didn't spend $300,000 on a worthless college degree are making more than they are.

The increase in the pay for (some) non-graduate jobs is another reminder of how wage rates in some of the traditional haunts of the intelligentsia, whether it be in universities or the media, have declined in relative -- and not infrequently -- absolute terms. Thirty or 40 years ago, a successful journalist or academic was guaranteed access to the lifestyle of the comfortable middle class. For many reasons, that is no longer the case. This shift helps explain both the radicalization of academia and, as has been all too evident in recent weeks, that of the media. No longer, as they see it, having a vested interest in the existing system, they are agitating to replace it with one in which they will have the power and the spoils that go with it. The same will also apply to those millions of underemployed graduates. To understand why academics are teaching what they are, why journalists were writing and broadcasting what they are, and why so many younger people are ready to listen to them, this is not a bad place to start.

I don't know if it's true that the academy has seen wages fall. I'm quite sure that's not true, unless there's a caste system in the academy in which most workers are kept from full-time positions and are paid menial wages while a select few (incluing all the administrators, of course) make hundreds of thousands per year.

* Strangely, I just blundered across the Andrew Stuttaford article without searching for it. I was checking National Review for the first time in months to see if they were actually engaging with the current crisis, or avoiding it like cowards. (Answer: They're engaging but in as cautious and bloodless a way as possible.)

So I just came across a random Peter Turchin mention minutes after hearing of him for the first time. The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon strikes again.

digg this
posted by Ace at 05:21 PM

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