In this blog post, “The Collapse of Complex Business Models”, uber-thinker Clay Shirky predicts the impending instantaneous implosion of many (all?) unfathomably complex business models that are currently thought by many to be unassailable. The cruxt of Clay’s compelling argument is based on eerily similar collapses of past complex cultures as told by Joseph Tainter in his aptly named book, The Collapse of Complex Societies.
Tainter’s thesis is that when society’s elite members add one layer of bureaucracy or demand one tribute too many, they end up extracting all the value from their environment it is possible to extract and then some. – Clay Shirky
Adding layer upon layer of bureaucracy (to disconnect themselves from the commoners, of course) and demanding “tributes” in the form of exotic titles, awards, astronomical salaries, and perks (to satisfy their egomania and bolster the false image that they “know what’s best for all“) pushes their elite system over the precipice.
In such systems, there is no way to make things a little bit simpler – the whole edifice becomes a huge, interlocking system not readily amenable to change. When the value of complexity turns negative, a society plagued by an inability to react remains as complex as ever, right up to the moment where it becomes suddenly and dramatically simpler, which is to say right up to the moment of collapse. Collapse is simply the last remaining method of simplification. – Clay Shirky
In this 5 minute video talk, “the current economy“, my favorite spiritual guru, Eckhart Tolle, trumps Clay by rising up one level of abstraction. Eckhart predicts the impending collapse of many of the societal structures that are ego based. Ego loves complexity. And how many large, man-made, socio-technical structures (a.k.a institutions) do you think are not ego based?
The problem is not the content, it’s the conditioned structure of the human mind – Eckhart Tolle