Gregorian Date: September 23, 2010
399 days till Oct. 28, 2011
819 days till Dec. 21, 2012
WE have been raised to think of the historical process as an essentially cyclical one.
We naturally tend to assume that in our own time, too, history will move cyclically, and slowly.
Yet what if history is not cyclical and slow-moving but arhythmic, at times almost stationary, but also capable of accelerating suddenly, like a sports car? What if collapse does not arrive over a number of centuries but comes suddenly, like a thief in the night?
Great powers and empires are complex systems, which means their construction more resembles a termite hill than an Egyptian pyramid. They operate somewhere between order and disorder, on "the edge of chaos", in the phrase of the computer scientist Christopher Langton.
Such systems can appear to operate quite stably for some time; they seem to be in equilibrium but are, in fact, constantly adapting.
But there comes a moment when complex systems "go critical". A very small trigger can set off a phase transition from a benign equilibrium to a crisis.
Complex systems share certain characteristics. A small input to such a system can produce huge, often unanticipated changes, what scientists call the amplifier effect.
HOW TO RECORD THE COPS
Qik and UStream, two services available for both the iPhone and Android phones, allow instant online video streaming and archiving. Once you stop recording, the video is instantly saved online. Both services also allow you to send out a mass email or notice to your Twitter followers when you have posted a new video from your phone. Not only will your video of police misconduct be preserved, but so will the video of the police officer illegally confiscating your phone (assuming you continue recording until that point).
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