This Strange Scientific Model Has A Worrying Prediction About 2020

A young protestor stands off against police during anti-Trump riots in Oakland, California. Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Robin Andrews 05 Jan 2017, 16:30

Few would doubt that the US, and Europe, is entering a period of instability. These factors, among many others, are clear drivers of this, and can clearly be quantified and used to make such predictions. However, we would suggest that the 50-year cycle is perhaps not as precise as it may seem.

Under Reagan, there was an initial thaw in US-Soviet relations, but around the time of his infamous “evil empire” speech, things became frosty. In fact, it was during the 1980s that the US came about as close to nuclear war as it did during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Sure, the 1970s were a little unstable too, but they also featured better relations with China and the end of the Vietnam War. Landmark social advances, like the nationwide right to have an abortion prior to six months, were made.

Also, if the 50-year cycle theory applies before 1870, then why were the 1820s in America relatively peaceful? The American Revolution had all but concluded, and the British forces had since retreated from much of the territory.

If we’re also using quantifiable data to look for instability, then why not highlight the number of deaths due to conflict or crime worldwide as a key measure? The rate of such violent deaths has fallen very sharply since the end of the horrific peak of the Second World War, a sure sign of increasing stability.

Ugh. lev radin/Shutterstock

The point that there are many ways of quantifying instability, and the data is not so clear cut (yet) that we can predict spikes of it in neatly defined cycles. For one thing, Turchin’s sample size is actually a little too small.

We can nonetheless agree with Turchin on one major point. If quantifiable data reveals key factors that will lead to instability, then we should be able to more precisely act to mitigate them.

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