The Centre for Independent Studies 2010 John Bonython Lecture with Niall Ferguson. Is the rise and fall of empires cyclical or arrhythmic? How does economic profligacy - whether the result of arrogance or naivety - contribute to the downfall of civilisations? Today Professor Ferguson will argue that great powers or empires are in the strict sense of the word, complex systems. Made up of very large numbers of interacting components that are quite asymmetrically organised. In other words, he continues, their construction more resembles a termite hill than an Egyptian pyramid. They operate somewhere between order and disorder. Moreover imperial falls are nearly always associated with fiscal crises, when there are dramatic imbalances between revenues and expenditures. Thus alarm bells should be ringing in Washington DC but what does that for mean for Australia?
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For all of the Internet era, and even before, novelist William Gibson has been the ultimate science fiction guru of the age. He invented the notion – the word – “cyberspace” before the Web even existed. He took us to dystopic futures that became nows in “Neuromancer,” “Burning Chrome,” and “Virtual Light.”
Now, when whole lives – or big pieces – have migrated to the Web and beyond, Gibson is beyond as well. He’s watching the culture from new angles. We speak with Gibson about his latest novel, “Zero History,” and where our world – and his – stand now.
"I might be one of the first generation of science fiction writers to come to the writing of it with a head full of academic critical theories…"