X-Events: The Collapse of Everything by John L. Casti. HarperCollins. 2012. 317 pages. Paperback. $12.99.
Modern society is increasingly complex and, consequently, increasingly fragile, according to systems theorist John Casti. He examines the world's resource bases, energy grids, information systems, geopolitical scene, and the other human-made systems that constitute civilization, and he finds vulnerabilities throughout them all to "X-events"--extreme, dramatic, and typically disastrous phenomena.
X-events are happening more frequently in this present era, he states, and society's susceptibility to being horrendously disrupted by them is at an all-time high. Present ways of living, for example, could completely exhaust food and water supplies. It would not take much to cause the entire Internet to fail, thereby paralyzing communication, commerce, and social interaction across the globe, and possibly precipitating massive riots. Likewise, the world's electricity grids are susceptible to debilitating, region-wide failures that would be difficult to fix.
It is also possible, though less likely, that an electromagnetic pulse phenomenon could instantaneously destroy all the world's electronics, or that nuclear war could break out. …