Friday, February 28, 2014

The Conversation talks with Joseph Tainter (2012)

Link to podcast: Episode 19: Joseph Tainter
Dr. Joseph Tainter is an anthropologist and historian who has studied collapse in numerous ancient civilizations and penned The Collapse of Complex Societies. This is our first deeply historical episode and Dr. Tainter begins by offering his definition of complexity and taking us through the story of Western Rome’s collapse. Extrapolating from the past, Dr. Tainter paints a dark scene of our possible future. In our conversation, he critiques the primitivism of John Zerzan, the transhumanism of Max More, and rains on the technological optimism heard in Ariel Waldman, Colin Camerer, and Gabriel Stempinski’s conversations. What are we left with? Not optimism, that is certain, but not pessimism, either. Perhaps Ragnarok? Interestingly, Dr. Tainter finds a ray of hope in education (which would probably peeve Andrew Keen and please Lisa Petrides) and speculates that teaching children to think on larger spatial and temporal scales might be our best way to evade collapse. Alexander Rose would almost certainly agree.

Related previous post: Collapse of Complex Societies by Dr. Joseph Tainter

Related book: The Collapse of Complex Societies