You’ve probably heard predictions in the past for when the world will end. The date comes and goes… and nothing happens. We’re all still here. Sometime soon after, someone makes a new prediction, and the process begins all over again. The newest prediction comes from mathematical historian Professor Peter Turchin. Could this prediction be any different than ones from the past? Could it be frighteningly accurate?
Professor Turchin works at the University of Connecticut’s department of ecology and evolutionary biology. He is a world-leading expert on cliodynamics, which is a research method that uses mathematics and complexity science to predict historical events. This method is used to predict the growth and collapse of empires and religions.
According to Turchin, sweeping political turmoil and social unrest could result in the collapse of the world as we know it in the 2020’s.
“We should expect many years of political turmoil, peaking in the 2020’s,” he wrote. “But this is a science-based forecast, not a ‘prophecy.’ It is based on solid social science.
Turchin said that low points and high points in society are inevitable. He cited “impersonal social forces” which bring “us to the top; then comes the inevitable plunge.” He also blamed the development of the “elite overproduction” as the main cause of wealth gaps in society, which causes the poor to become more and more alienated.
He wrote, “Elite overproduction generally leads to more intra-elite competition that gradually undermines the spirit of cooperation, which is followed by ideological polarisation and fragmentation of the political class.”
He continued, “This happens because the more contenders there are, the more of them end up on the losing side. A large class of disgruntled elite-wannabes.”
Turchin also claimed there is a stagnation in living standards and declining economic health. He believes these issues could cause a fatal collapse in social structures.
The professor denied that his theory was a prophecy or in any way inevitable. “Ours is the first society that can perceive how those forces operate, even if dimly” he wrote. “The descent is not inevitable.”
He closed by saying, “This means that we can avoid the worst – perhaps by switching to a less harrowing track, perhaps by redesigning the rollercoaster altogether.”
What Does This Mean?
According to Professor Turchin, we are on a dangerous path. The years ahead hold increasing intra-elite competition, elite overproduction and political polarization. In addition, we will see the stagnation and decline of living standards and the decline of fiscal health of the state. “We should expect many years of political turmoil, peaking in the 2020’s” Turchin wrote.
He believes the only way forward is “through an open discussion of problems and potential solutions, and broad-based collective action to implement them.” Turchin admits the processes may be “messy and slow, but that’s how lasting positive change usually comes about.”
What do you think about Professor Turchin’s prediction? Are we nearing the end of the world?