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These pages contain the complete rough draft manuscript of the new book
Generational Dynamics for Historians,
written by John J. Xenakis.
This text is fully copyrighted. You may copy or print out this
material for your own use, but not for distribution to others.
Comments are invited. Send them to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
To begin, I am among those who believe that the world is headed for a major "clash of civilizations" world war that will be worse than World War II. The probability of this occurring in the next few years is close to 100%, and if you count the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, then it already began on 9/11. This conclusion comes from analyzing patterns of generational changes and "world wars" throughout millennia of history, and extrapolating those patterns forward.
We're at a unique juncture in history, 60 years after the end of World War II. Ten years ago, most of America's business and government leaders were from the risk-averse generation that grew up amid the starvation, homelessness, death and destruction of World War II, and these leaders always sought compromise and containment of problems.
Today's business and government leaders are from the risk-seeking Baby Boomer generation of people born after the war. They knew nothing of the horrors of the Depression and WW II, and they learned to be arrogant and demanding during the 1960s, when they humiliated their war hero parents' generation, and forced the downfall of two Presidents (Johnson and Nixon).
The same thing is happening in every country that fought during World War II, which is why we're seeing increasing confrontations around the world in the Mideast, Korea, China, the Caucasus (southern Russia), and other regions. History tells us that this pattern always leads to a major new world war. Testxdef
I believe that it's especially important for young people to understand this conclusion and the reasoning behind it. After all, you are the ones who will be most affected.
There are many books that attempt to predict the future based on historical cycles in finance, war or politics. Every book we've seen, including the most modern and scholarly, makes substantial methodological errors that we've identified. The two biggest and most common mistakes are
For example, many cyclic trends were identified in the 1920s, in the aftermath of the Great War (World War I). The best known of these are the 40-50 year cycles identified by Russian researcher Nikolai Kondratiev. It was a great theory until its predictions were contradicted by World War II. The theory of Kondratiev Cycles (K-cycles) is actually valid, but only if you understand that WW I was a generational war in Eastern Europe, and WW II was a generational war in Western Europe.
Probably the most useful accomplishment of Generational Dynamics is to identify and sort out the different components and data series that go into establishing historical cycles and trends and technology growth cycles and trends, and then applying them to the current times. We believe that this work, which unifies numerous analytical and forecasting methodologies, almost completely solves the heretofore unresolved questions about finding patterns in history.
Some mathematics is used in this book, but the concepts are fully explained for the non-mathematician. But from a mathematical point of view, we construct a complex abstract model of the world through time (using a "magic ball of yarn" as a semi-physical representation of the abstract model), and show how different views of the model produce different results. Chaos Theory defines fractals as graphical representations of the attractor space of a chaotic complex system, and the graphical model of a fractal looks the same from every view. But the complex system model of the earth through time defined in this book exhibits chaos in one view, cyclic generational patterns in another view, and non-generational cycles (like K-cycles) in other views. The result is that the abstract model explains everything, and so is a kind of "unified field theory" for patterns of history.
In outline form, the theoretical development of Generational Dynamics includes the following topics, including page numbers where more information about each topic can be found:
America has been in two crisis wars since its founding: The Civil War, in which Northern General Sherman marched through the South, and conducted the world's first "scorched earth" war campaign, burning all buildings and crops to the ground; and World War II, in which we firebombed Dresden and Tokyo, killing millions of civilians, and dropped nuclear weapons on two other Japanese cities. (I'm not blaming America for this, only stating that it occurred.)
Non-crisis wars are political wars, always mired in political dissension at home. America has fought in many such wars: The Gulf War, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, World War I, the Spanish-American War, the Mexican-American war, and the War of 1812 are examples. The issues in these wars are almost completely forgotten today; the wars themselves are almost completely forgotten, except for their names.
Caution: The crisis war criteria are precisely defined but not always intuitive. Occasionally someone writes to me and says that he "feels" that such-and-such a war is or is not a crisis war. I hear this most often about Russia in World War II. The crisis war criteria are not based on "feelings." Before jumping to conclusions, make sure that you've applied the criteria precisely as described.
With regard to the last point, it isn't good enough just to make predictions that turn out to be correct. After all, it's very, very easy to get a million predictions right: Just make two million predictions. To claim to be a good forecaster, you also have to get many predictions right and few or no predictions wrong. We've tried to accomplish that on http://www.GenerationalDynamics.com .
Readers may be surprised to find terms like "attractor" and "fractals" in this book because they seem unrelated to the study of history. Actually, those are terms from Chaos Theory. My background is in Mathematical Logic, and I've combined Generational Dynamics with Chaos Theory and created an abstract mathematic model for "the way the world works" through history. The millions of political events that occur every day are all random, but the generational cycles form a "cyclic attractor" within the chaotic system, and the model is a fractal when viewed in the right way. This makes history a cross-disciplinary subject in history and math. This is valuable for the study of history because it establishes historical patterns for the first time, and it's important for the study of mathematics because it's a large, complex "real-life" social model of complex chaotic systems. A mathematician with an interest in history could write his Ph.D. dissertation on Generational Dynamics because there's so much work left to be done.
Chapters 5 and 6 incorporate macroeconomic theory into the abstract model, and show how the same long-term and short-term forecasting tools can be used to make certain kinds of financial predictions.
In chapter 7, The Singularity, I came up with a very interesting proof that, under certain reasonable assumptions, the evolution of any intelligent species must follow the Generational Dynamics model. Darwin developed a theory for the evolution of individuals, but Darwin's work provides little guidance for the evolution of groups, and there's nothing, as far as I know, on the evolution of intelligent groups. Much to my own astonishment, Generational Dynamics fills that gap, so that now it's multi-disciplinary subject involving history, mathematics, macroeconomics and evolution.
I find this to be a fascinating development because it tells us that if there's intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, then they must have evolved pretty much the way we did, and they must have reached the Singularity in pretty much the same way we're going to. It's mind-boggling.
Obviously an understanding of history is the major prerequisite to understanding Generational Dynamics, and the more history the better. However, let's look at some other prerequisites before discussing history.
Most of the mathematics needed for this book is explained in the book.
My own background is in mathematics, and especially Mathematical Logic, part of which is the theory of defining abstract models, and then proving that the models are logically consistent and the models represent "Truth." In its theoretical development, Generational Dynamics is indeed a model of the real world, and much of this book is devoted, through historical analysis, to showing that the model does indeed represent Truth in the real world. This is done by showing that crisis wars occur in all places and times in history, and that the flow of generational eras between crisis wars is extremely robust.
Chapter xxx (p. [forecast#592]) contains an introduction to Chaos Theory, and how it applies to Generational Dynamics. We develop a model of the earth through time as a complex system, and show which parts of those model are ordered and which are chaotic. Once that question is answered we can show, for example, that K-cycles and other methodologies for finding patterns in history work sometimes (when trying to find patterns in ordered portions of the model) and fail sometimes (when trying to find patterns in chaotic portions).
Part of the demonstration that the Generational Dynamics model represents Truth in the real world is my web site, http://www.GenerationalDynamics.com . Since 2002, I've been regularly posting specific, hard predictions about worldwide events, politics, culture, technology, economics and international finance, with nearly perfect accuracy. The reason for this success is that predictions stick to the ordered patterns only. Discussions of chaotic events, such as day to day political changes, are discussed only probabilistically. A lengthy example of such predictions will be found starting on page [forecast#902].
There is one more dependency on mathematics: the frequent use of exponential growth curves to analyze growth of population, food, stock prices, technology growth, and so forth. This is a subject that I discussed at length in my previous book, and I won't repeat it here, but some familiarity with exponential growth and technological forecasting is very helpful in learning Generational Dynamics.
I became familiar with exponential growth of technology trends in the 1970s, and I've long wondered if there was an equivalently rigorous explanation of cyclic trends or the "pendulum effect" in politics. Thus, when I became aware of the generational paradigm shortly after 9/11, I immediately became pretty much driven and obsessed with it, resulting in my last book and this one.
Now let's return to the history prerequisites.
Although many people have been supportive of me in this project, many others have been dismissive, usually making some remark about leaving history to the historians.
Indeed, many, many people become extremely emotional about this. I've been startled more than once by having people, even esteemed historians and other people who really should know better, become extremely irrational and even adopt offensive attitudes over this material.
I can understand that -- this is the saddest project I've ever worked on in my life.
This has given me occasion to to consider all the reasons why Generational Dynamics makes otherwise sane people want to go screaming into the hills, and the reasons are numerous:
When I see the above list all in one place, it makes me want to go screaming into the hills, so I can understand the effect of Generational Dynamics on other people, even people who should know better. This has led to me to long, philosophical meditations on the question of why it has fallen to me, of all the people on earth, to be the one to deliver this news to the world, but since I'm not a religious person myself, I don't claim to have a clue.
In contemplative times, I do remember the words of the following song, sung by Judy Collins:
Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices? I've heard them calling my name. Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors? The voice might be one and the same. I've heard it too many times to ignore it. It's something that I'm s'posed to be. Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection, The lovers, the dreamers, and me.
Here the operative phrase is that this is "something that I'm s'posed to be," for whatever reason. I didn't seek this project out; it sought me out. It seems that everything in my life has pointed me in this direction. My Greek ethnicity allows me to understand the deepest meanings of "tragedy" better than most people can. My education in mathematical logic was essential. My long time interest in technological forecasting helped me believe that other types of forecasting are possible. My long period of unemployment after 9/11 and the fact that I'm divorced and don't "have a life" gave me plenty of time to work on this. I've had many successes and many, many, many failures in my life, and at age 60 as I look back over my life, it now looks like every job I've ever had, every subject I've ever studied, and every personal and professional failure I've ever experienced have all been necessary prerequisites to my developing this theory. If my life had been more "successful," then this book could never have happened.
I'd like to thank Bill Strauss and Neil Howe for their brilliant work creating the study of the generational paradigm in Anglo-American history. I'd like to thank Mike Alexander for pummeling me ruthlessly with questions about Generational Dynamics, so that I'd have to explain things better, in greater and greater detail, do more and more research, and prove many things that I'd previously only assumed. I'd also like to thank the hundreds of people who regularly read my web site, and often sent me e-mail with supportive comments, and even told me how valuable and interesting the web site is. Finally, I'd like to thank the many people who treated me contemptuously, and thus got me so enormously pissed off that I had to finish this book just to spite them. I probably couldn't have done it without them.
John J. Xenakis