Peter Turchin, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut, has issued a prediction: the 2020’s will see a peak in social instability and political violence. He uses cliodynamics, a transdisciplinary mode of researching that incorporates the study of cultural evolution, economic history, macrosociology and the mathematical modeling of trends.
Turchin’s research has lead him to the conclusion that 40 different social indicators all experienced turning points in the 1970’s that are leading us to a spike in political and societal turmoil in the 2020’s. Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States represents an unprecedented collapse of social norms, but does not change Turchin’s equation. While it does signal an increase in negative trends, we are still on track, according to Turchin’s equation, for this peak of unrest and violence in the 2020’s.
Factors that feed into this are concepts like elite overproduction (the concept of rich elites supporting and contributing more to politics than people of the lower classes), political polarization and the fragmenting of political parties, declining fiscal health, and stagnating standards of living.
Turchin's prediction is not a prophecy. He is using mathematical models and coming to a conclusion based on historical precedence and societal observations.
So what can be done? Can anything save us from the potential train-wreck we could face in a few years? It is possible to change course, but it would require addressing many issues that have gotten us on this track. Turchin recommends that we need an open discussion of all these issues, and potential solutions for the problems, as well as a broad-based initiative to implement those solutions. While he admits that such a process is usually messy and slow, it is the only way we can have a lasting positive change.
Roll up those sleeves and get ready. It is going to be a rough few years.