Joining John B. Wells, scientist and mathematician John Casti discussed human-caused catastrophic scenarios that could quickly bring about the end to our way of life. According to Casti, these X-events, as he calls them, happen because the systems involved become too complex for humans to effectively understand and thus susceptible to sudden collapse. People typically will not voluntarily downsize a complex system, so human nature steps in and does it for us, he added. Yet, there is a positive side to even the most dire X-event. The highly destructive Fukushima disaster, for instance, has allowed freedom to restructure many aspects of Japanese life (their political and economic systems), Casti said. “This kind of creative destruction is, in general, necessary in order to break out of old patterns that cannot really be changed in some slow, gradual evolutionary fashion; it really takes a revolution and these X-events are typically the catalyst which bring about that possibility,” he explained.
Whenever a society faces a problem the standard response is usually to create a new level of bureaucracy to address it, Casti continued. As an example, he pointed to the Department of Homeland Security, created shortly after the 9-11 tragedy to combat terrorism on U.S. soil. It is almost certain that this level of bureaucracy will still exist when the next problem comes along, Casti suggested. Eventually, all of a society’s resources are used to maintain the current structure and there is not enough left to deal with other problems that may arise, he noted, pointing to the former Soviet Union as an example. This “complexity overload” can also occur in the infrastructure that modern society has become dependent on, Casti said, warning of a possible internet collapse, global financial deflation, food supply breakdown, and destruction of electronics. A scenario that Casti thinks is the most disconcerting is destabilization of the nuclear landscape and detonation of a nuclear bomb.