viernes, 12 de julio de 2013

At last but not the least

            Abrupt Civilization Change

I. Parra

What does “Abrupt Civilization Change” mean?
On one hand we could define it as significant technological change.  On the other hand we could explain it as temporal, where there are many very rapid, short intervals of change, during which modified social structures, economic dynamics, disruption of trade markets, and other movements occur.
How rapid must a change be to become an “Abrupt” Change?  It all depends upon the scale of observation.  From my point of view, that is, in an average Western life, “abrupt” could range from between 2 or 4 years up to 20 or 40 years.  Something big could be happening within a couple of statistical human generations spanning 25 years each.
During my 37 years living in Europe and my first 15 years growing up in South America - a lot of important things happened to me that could be considered Abrupt Changes, perhaps not on a “civilization” scale, but I suspect that many of these smaller events are part of much bigger changes.
Let me draw your attention to some of the major events that punctuated my and all of the lives of people living in this time.
The consolidation and the fall of the Soviet system; the independence of India, the rise of Chinese power as independent from Russian communists; the independence of dozens of African European colonies; massive changes in communications and transport; more and faster long distance “unwired” communications for voice, data and image; an increase in numbers of planes in the sky travelling at greater speeds; more high speed trains and in larger numbers; more destructive war systems and many more people inhabiting the planet – all consuming energy at a vast rate.
The list is actually much longer than this very synthetic flash abstract.  
It is evident that during the last 50 years we have witnessed extremely rapid civilization change.  In the last hundred years the magnitude of consequences as a result of new technology has already accelerated massively from those of just 200 years ago.
Besides, in Archaeology the technological level of armies is seldom used to get insight into the corresponding technological level of the society sustaining that technology.  This is a common practice since the first professional archaeologist start some 120 years ago to explore old Asian cultures, such as Troy, Mesopotamia, Hittites, and the most well known of all old African cultures, that of Egypt.  Thus let us compare for a moment the modern armies with those of 100 years ago.  This comparison shall show radical differences, not only in fire power but also in logistics, drilling systems, communications and cultural level of soldiers.  The latter is not a minor point: in the mid 1800ths half of the European population was unable to read a newspaper.  When compared to modern armies a technological revolution is needed to explain not only the quality of changes but the quantity too.  This is an important matter when dealing with Abrupt Civilization changes: quantities matter a lot, that is quantities of people attained by such or such other qualitative change, quantities of objects, quantities of information and quantities of new technologies achieved and spread out in short time intervals.
All of this corresponds to an abridged synthesis of Abrupt Changes operating as positive exponential curves. How to start surfing on those changes promoting, preceding and causing Abrupt falls of complete civilizations, which are observed in relatively short intervals of time?