Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Turning of History

Several months ago, I was looking into a role-playing guide which described ways in which gamemasters could create plausible and exciting scenarios for their players, or more specifically, alternate-history gameplaying. One of the more interesting side-blurbs described the Saeculum Theory which asserted that history occurred in cycles, and each cycle lasts about 80-100 years.

Each cycle consists of four stages: a High, an Awakening, an Unraveling, and a Crisis. The people in each stage also consists of four types of people: prophets, nomads, heroes, and artists at various stages of their lives: as children, young adults, mature adults, and elderly.

Looking at the events going on now, and the events of the past 30 years, I think it's safe to say the US, and by extension the world, by dint of the economic / cultural / social influence of the US, that modern human civilization is currently in the midst of an Unraveling. While it might be true that China and India are on the rise, their collective influence on world events is still limited.

Which means the Crisis is soon to hit, and in the next 20 years. So what's a Crisis? Think US Civil War, World War 2. That's how big and bad a Crisis is going to be. And there's very little doubt in my mind that the Crisis will probably involve Islam fanaticism and secular democracy as opposing factions. And when the dust settles, a new social order, and a different social contract between the people and the State, will emerge.

Here's the link to the people who thought up this theory.

Like all theories, it probably has its flaws, but on the whole, it does seem remarkably sturdy, and the next two decades will give me plenty of opportunity to study its validity. It is also a vindication of my belief that while individuals are wholly unpredictable, societies are not.

When I was learning statistical thermodynamics, one thing I took away from the module(other than my B grade for the exams) was that while the quantum behaviour of one molecule was unpredictable, when considering a large number of them, it becomes possible to make accurate predictions of their behaviour, in terms of energy, pressure, etc.

Similarly, the bigger the population in study, the more accurate predictions could be. This is why economic theories, more or less, work; they don't deal with the individual, they deal with entire economies. Merging the Saeculum theory, statistical mathematics, and modern economics may well result in Asimov's famous psychohistory.


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