Temple of the Great Jaguar, Guatemala Dennit Jarvis
Yours truly wrote a piece titled Thru the Looking Glass - Fragile vs. Robust ... A tiny sample :) a blurb focusing on complex vs. simple in terms of fragility and how it applies to civilization. Seems Seneca focused on this very same issue in the 1st century, which means this rube is not alone in showing why complex system fail ... with undue haste.
Nature: Small periodic fires, started by lightning, clears away dead brush to permit new growth. Robust
Man: By trying to prevent fires of any kind insures the build-up of dead brush to biblical proportions, thus generating the distinct possibility of creating fires unable to be controlled. Channel CA in 2019. Fragile
Ancient bust of Seneca, part of the Double Herm of Socrates and Seneca
During the first century of our era, the Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca wrote to his friend Lucilius that life would be much happier if things would only decline as slowly as they grow. Unfortunately, as Seneca noted, “increases are of sluggish growth but the way to ruin is rapid.” We may call this universal rule the Seneca effect.
Seneca’s idea that “ruin is rapid” touches something deep in our minds. Ruin, which we may also call “collapse,” is a feature of our world. We experience it with our health, our job, our family, our investments. We know that when ruin comes, it is unpredictable, rapid, destructive, and spectacular. And it seems to be impossible to stop until everything that can be destroyed is destroyed.
Figure 1: The Seneca curve, from Bardi’s ‘The Seneca Effect’ (2017). The intensity of something as a function of time (going left to right). For intensity, imagine it is the value of a financial stock. It grows slowly, then it declines rapidly when the company generating it goes bankrupt.