The vision most people have of societal collapse is like a post-apocalyptic horror film — say, something like I Am Legend. But in reality, collapse is a very slow, gradual chipping away at quality of life. One can argue about the root causes, but ultimately a huge contributing factor is this: as societies become more ‘developed’ and urbanized, an ever-increasing level of complexity is needed to manage them. And it seems that the complexity has compounded to the point where the system is so overburdened, it’s buckling under its own weight. That’s what we’re living through today.

Of course, complexity is only part of the equation; there are myriad other social and economic factors at play as well. The point is, this is what collapse ultimately looks like and as a species, we have been here before many, many times. Archaeologist Joseph Tainter wrote an entire book about it in 1990 called ‘The Collapse of Complex Societies.’

READ MORE: The conundrum of complexity