Dark Age America by John Michael Greer

Another interesting read on our likely futures, that has aged surprisingly well through the age of Covid, is Dark Age America by JMG.

He traces out, in loose pencil lines, the sort of arc one might expect from America assuming it follows the normal decline of empires, which is a good a bet as any. Societies/empires look very different on the way up, and tend to resemble each other on the way down.

And we’ve seen the sort of general dysfunction one might expect in empires on the way down. If anyone was in doubt as to the political polarization in America, Covid put it on impossible-to-miss display. A large state’s power grid just… collapsed, because there were some abnormal weather events. And these trends will just continue on the way down.

He also talks, more than most, about technological suites (including the internet) - groups of technologies that all work together for some common goal. Baggage carousels lack any real purpose to exist, outside airline transport, as does area radar (there are still some military uses, but civilian air radar isn’t too useful without planes), etc. And the combination of energy cost and economic shocks are likely to render some technologies far less widespread, even if they’re still doable for a while, simply because nobody cares to afford them.

There’s nothing particularly optimistic in the book beyond “Well, small groups of people can make a difference in terms of both keeping the book of available ideas open wide for the decline, and to preserve certain simple technologies.” But it’s a very good read, and quite approachable read, if you’ve not delved into such things before.