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Past Crises, Present Crisis: Past Civilizations' Decision Paths Through Times of Disruption

Joel Gunn

Worldwide crises are nothing new. Periodic bottlenecks created by worldwide disturbances have been part of human history since the beginning of the human species. 1st Millennium AD cultures experienced at least three major disturbances. One in particular, the so-called AD536 Event has been widely studied. It resulted from sudden global cooling caused by volcanoes in the midst of a global warming trend and resulted in the deaths and impoverishment of millions of people. Anthropologists and political scientists have independently identified about 200 regional habitats worldwide. Each has its own political economy and regional peculiarities that are recorded by archaeologists and historians as centuries-long chronologies of chained periods. Each period was adapted to the conditions of the political and economic region during its time. The adaptive traits shared with the modern world economy are hegemonic social organizations and locally customary means of managing information. These commonalities obviate differences in economic and ecological scales making them possible decision path models for the modern world system past and future. Given the current realized and impending world crisis, the decision paths typically followed in the evolution of civilizations through and past troubling bottlenecks should be of interest to futurists and policy makers. Key to understanding these decision paths is a clear view of the global and local relations of a given time period and place. These global-local relations can be viewed as fabrics whose threads are the dimensions of information or knowledge upon which they operate during their period. This paper discusses numerical methods to arrive at these fabrics.

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