How Systems Break: First They Slow Down
by Charles Hugh Smith
Posted April 22, 2016
Complex systems like ecological food webs, the brain, and the climate all give off a characteristic signal when disaster is around the corner. The key insight here is that financial systems and indeed economies function as natural systems. The dominant systems do not operate in a vacuum; beneath the surface dominance of one system are many other systems that are suppressed by the dominant system.
The signal, a phenomenon called ‘critical slowing down,’ is a lengthening of the time that a system takes to recover from small disturbances, such as a disease that reduces the minnow population, in the vicinity of a critical transition. It occurs because a system’s internal stabilizing forces—whatever they might be—become weaker near the point at which they suddenly propel the system toward a different state. More…