quetzalcoatl wrote:All of the above are subsets of Late Stage Complexity.
New complex (and very fragile) production/control systems have evolved to replace more primitive (but sturdier) systems of food distribution, transportation, and communication. Whether it was intentional or not, these systems are irreversible - they can't be ratcheted back or turned off without severe dislocation.
Consider financial clearing as an example. We no longer have the armies of trained clerks to do this manually, and with the current size of capital and money markets it's probably not even possible. A freak solar flare destroying computer networks/power transformers, a concerted cyber attack, a global heating induced hurricane drowning NY financial district... As these and other innovations were introduced bit by bit, no one was stepping back and asking "how can we engineer robustness into this new world?"
Thus fragilities are embedded in our basic survival systems at every level and across every industry. The scope and depth of system fragility increases every day.
No one can say when, where, or how, but... It is inevitable that a predictably unpredictable trigger will randomly push the system from metastability into chaos.
(These are strictly internal problems of complexity. I'm ignoring hard external problems, like environmental degradation.)
There's a great book on the subject called The Collapse of Complex Societies by anthropologist Joseph Tainter.