KEY THREE: ρεύμα – ρυθμός – ραψωδία

Row, row, row your boat… down to the crossroads

Consider the various well-documented trends of the 21st Century, both good and bad. These trends do not exist in their own hermetically sealed universes, but exist in a single world together, and their effects are interrelated. In short, over time we must necessarily see a convergence of all significant positive and negative effects.

For the sake of a dramatic mnemonic, let’s invoke the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who together comprise a single inevitable Convergence of escalating trends:

The White Horse is traditionally the most disputed in terms of theological meaning, but most often called “conquest”. I will use it to represent technology and the synergistic effect it has on all other trends.

The Red Horse is commonly known as “war”, and therein I include all civil disturbance, breakdown of civilized institutions and traditions, propaganda, international war and the threat from weapons of mass destruction.

The Black Horse is traditionally considered to refer to famine, so I will follow suit, but also include disease, resource shortages and scarcity (both natural and artificial) of all types, and the mounting effects of climate change.

Finally, the Pale Horse (well known as the one whose rider is Death) stands here for the dark side of all economic and media trends which reach into every corner of the world and exacerbate the worst aspects of all of the other trends. This is not to say that trade or communication are intrinsically bad, but that dangerous applications of both are commonplace and indeed protected by our society, to its own peril.

Now, let’s say that some form of culmination or convergence – both good and bad in its various effects – is inevitable by the end of the 21st Century. To deny this shocking-yet-modest claim is to assert that things will be “business as usual” in the year 2100. One way or another, that seems extremely unlikely.

Furthermore, given that many of these trends appear to be accelerating to one degree or another, it seems reasonable to expect that although we are talking about a broad process rather than a discrete “event”, the period of world-changing convergence will be short (and intense) enough to seem like a discrete event when compared to the rest of human history.

And so, we may reasonably ask when such a convergence should be expected. Although we cannot be sure that the assumptions required definitely stand, a conservative statistical model to apply would be the normal distribution, or “bell curve”.

Under such a model, the event in question is less likely to happen very early or very late in the period in question, and more likely to happen somewhere in the middle. If you took a number of informed estimates of when various trends will culminate, it would be surprising if the collective result did not look like some flavour of bell curve.

Applying a normal distribution or bell curve, we can give rough percentage estimates of the likelihood of convergence (culminating in massive, rapid global change) by certain years, as follows:

Cumulative % likelihood of Convergence by year, with base assumptions:

2017 2.35
2033 15.85
2050 49.85
2067 83.85
2083 97.35
2100 99.7