So you're worried about a polycrisis...
My latest for Vox
If you paid any attention to the World Economic Forum last week, you probably heard the word “polycrisis” and might have wondered what it meant beyond “Something Real Bad.” The fact that no writing software recognizes it as a legitimate word makes the concept even more aggravating.
The hard-working staff here at Drezner’s World has your back! My latest for Vox tackles the polycrisis concept. Here’s the thesis:
As someone who has written a book about zombie apocalypses and taught a course about the end of the world, I have a smidgen more sympathy for the polycrisis concept [than skeptics]. I think its proponents are trying to get at something more than just history happening. They are putting a name to the belief that a more interconnected, complex world is vulnerable to an interconnected, complex global catastrophe.
That is a legitimate concern. Just because the concept of a polycrisis is real, however, does not mean that the logic behind a polycrisis is ironclad. Some of it echoes 1970s concerns about resource depletion combined with an increasing population — in other words, neo-Malthusianism gussied up to sound fancy. A lot more of it can be reduced to concerns about climate change, which are real but not poly-anything. Those warnings about a polycrisis might be well-intentioned, but they also assume the existence of powerful negative feedback effects that may not actually exist.
Read the whole thing. Hopefully I do not sound Pollyanna-ish about the polycrisis. Some of the concerns voiced by its proponents are real; some of them are possibilities. I am skeptical, however, of the utility of the concept.
Enjoy the whole article — and if you liked the embedded video for Amazon Prime’s The Peripheral, I recommend watching the whole series:
Call it polycrisis or not, it seems clear that there are multiple ongoing crises in the world that, individually, may not seem as globally threatening, but occurring and/or intensifying together - who knows?
By the way, The Peripheral was greatly entertaining. But on a more sober consideration, science fiction, including that of William Gibson, has often predicted what comes to pass in the future based on then-current trends and observations. Take heed.
Love that series!