Interesting talk on history by Furguson

In summary, Harvard professor Niall Ferguson spoke about the fall of empires at the Australia Center for Independent Studies. He argues that empires collapse quickly and that this can be attributed to the loss of adaptive potential and the inability to respond to perturbing events. However, his use of chaos theory and complex adaptive systems theory is flawed and does not provide a clear explanation for empire collapse. Additionally, he fails to address the issue of hard environmental and resource constraints, which have been popularized by historian Jared Diamond as a cause of sudden empire collapse. Overall, Ferguson's understanding of theoretical principles receives a low grade, despite his good intentions.
  • #1
PhilKravitz
Harvard professor of history Niall Ferguson gave an interesting talk on history at the Australia Center for Independent Studies

http://fora.tv/2010/07/28/Niall_Ferguson_Empires_on_the_Edge_of_Chaos

His main point was that empires die fast.
 
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  • #2
An essay on the same is here - http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article24874.htm

Unfortunately his use of chaos theory and complex adaptive systems (CAS) theory is mangled almost to the point of parody.

For example, it is two different things to claim the US will fall suddenly because 1) life is essentially chaotic, or 2) fall suddenly because CAS become scelerotic in time and so lose their adaptive potential and ability to respond to pertubative events.

It matters because if you believe 1), then you will see collapse as just bad luck, like the weather, and not something the US can do much about.

But if you believe 2), then you might have a political theory about the need to remain in the lean and still growing phase that can take the knocks and bumps.

Of course then you get into the issue of hard environmental/resource constraints - as Jared Diamond has popularised as the historical reason for sudden empire collapse. And in complexity theory, a boundary constraint ain't a butterfly-wing style perturbation. :smile:

So Ferguson gets a D for his grasp of theoretical principles, even if his heart's in the right place.
 

1. What topics were discussed in Furguson's talk on history?

Furguson's talk covered a variety of historical topics, including major events, key figures, and cultural and societal changes throughout history. Some specific examples may include World War II, the Industrial Revolution, and the Civil Rights Movement.

2. How did Furguson approach the subject of history in their talk?

Furguson likely approached the subject of history in a comprehensive and interdisciplinary manner, drawing on various sources and perspectives to provide a well-rounded understanding of the topic. They may have also used engaging storytelling techniques to make the information more accessible and interesting to the audience.

3. What were some of the main takeaways from Furguson's talk?

Some main takeaways from Furguson's talk on history may include a greater understanding of the interconnectedness of events throughout history, the impact of individuals and societal structures on historical developments, and the relevance of history to modern-day issues and contexts.

4. Did Furguson present any controversial or thought-provoking ideas in their talk on history?

It is possible that Furguson presented some controversial or thought-provoking ideas in their talk, as history is often a subject that elicits different interpretations and perspectives. These ideas may have sparked further discussions and debates among the audience.

5. How can I continue to learn more about the topics discussed in Furguson's talk on history?

To continue learning more about the topics discussed in Furguson's talk, you can do further research on your own, read books or articles on the subject, attend other talks or lectures, or engage in discussions with others who are knowledgeable about history. You can also reach out to Furguson directly for additional resources or recommendations.

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