A hundred years ago you could have traveled on a long journey by train, maybe by car, on a slow ocean liner, and maybe on a plane. It would have taken you weeks, maybe months to travel around the world. Today, you can circumnavigate the globe in about forty-five hours– just under two days. Our economies, currencies, religions, morals, governments, races, and people, once somewhat insulated from each other by geographical distance now stream live into our homes and to the phones in our hands. Technology that promised to open the world to us and make our lives easier, has complicated our lives, divided us, and increased our cynicism, and stoked our greatest fears. At no time in our global history have we been so close to the precipice of collapse. At no previous time in our global history, have we been so close to being caught up in the domino effects of a global implosion that would make World War II look like a minor skirmish? We are quickly entering into unchartered territory. If you are not convinced at this point that being a prepper is prudent, nothing will convince you before it could be simply too late for you.
There are five major threats to a stable world that can’t be ignored if we plan to move forward as a species in the next few decades. Because our world is so connected and intertwined, it is not just one country that would suffer through any of these events. All countries could slide down, even pull each other down into darkness and chaos.
These items we cover are meant to serve as a point of reference for the challenges we face that will have an impact on our daily lives. We increasingly are living in an interconnected world and never before in history has mankind faced such massive threats. This list is designed to help us anticipate and prepare what is coming next.
The most pressing and immediate crisis point in our worldwide history, however, has to be a total global economic collapse. Sure, economies fail around the world. Economies rise and economies fall, but today they are more intricately connected and tied to one another. A hundred years ago if all your money was in German Marks, it would have taken you time to convert it to other currencies. That gift of time allowed for governments to react and respond to check further declines. In another example of these stopgaps, if the stock market drops too much in a single day in the US markets, trading is halted. Circuit breakers halt trading on the nation’s stock markets during dramatic drops and are set at seven percent, thirteen percent, and twenty percent of the closing price for the previous day. The exchanges of other economies have similar circuit breakers, price monitoring functionality. But those circuit breakers worked in a different time.
Any large scale exodus out of an economy’s markets and into commodities or competing currency or countries could bypass circuit breakers and could be cumulatively enough to have dire consequences for an economy. One economy’s collapse could domino to neighboring countries or countries where economies are so tightly woven together. Great depressions aren’t regional anymore.
The Greek Debt Crisis has scheduled payments through the year 2060 and impacts the economies of a multitude of nations. Global growth is projected at a staggering negative four point nine percent. In fact, the scale of the economic downturn when comparing 2019 to 2020 is staggering, with some economies shrinking by twenty or thirty percent. From Spain to Malaysia to Japan to Israel to the UK and the US, economies have suffered a major blow. There isn’t an economy in the world doing well right now, travel and tourism have nearly ground to a halt, and production and trade have slowed tremendously. While the world can survive, as in the Greek Debt Crisis, when one country or one region’s economies suffer, there is no stop-gap or circuit breaker in place to stop a massive global economic downturn.
What happens when the world suffers a great depression? We don’t really know because we have never in our history faced such a far-reaching possible crisis, but we can assume it’s going to be very, very bad.
Divided cultures. It may seem like a trivial thing, and some would argue that we have always had divided cultures. We have. In fact, ethnic cleansing, the far extreme of cultural divides has been around as long as societies of humans have existed. Culture wars around the world between religions, ideologies, economic classes, political parties, and ethnicities have intensified and are stoked through the internet and social media. The basics of social identity theory imply inherent and inclined favoritism towards people of the same social group, so as much as we are overwhelmed by information about other cultures and people, the more we are drawn deeper into the narrows of our own community and culture. Technology and copious amounts of information cause us to feel overwhelmed, withdraw us, and make us cynical.
Instead of accepting other cultures’ unique stance on something, we are more apt to criticize it, and that criticizing voice is amplified and validated in the echo chamber of the internet. We easily find like-minded people who share our dislike or disdain for other cultural nuances. It is easier to criticize or demonize something else than it is to accept that other cultures and people choose to believe some things differently than we may.
The problem is that these divisions are so amplified, are susceptible to falsehoods, can be propagandized, and can be the spark to easily ignite uncontrollable fires. It is easy to imagine minor divides leading to isolated pockets of violence, leading to larger armed conflicts, leading to economies faltering under the stress, and global economies suffering as a result. While instances in our previous global history may have been linked to smaller countries as in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Darfur region of Sudan, what happens if similarly large scale conflicts between groups of people occur within a global superpower between similarly equipped and funded groups? When violence spills into the streets and the fires are lit, it takes a lot more effort to extinguish them than the effort expended to start them. Cultural divisions without calls for unity, acceptance of different people’s value systems, or a willingness to seek out and listen to differing points of view can easily be amplified and can spin out of control, spilling from other places to your very doorstep.
A by-product of the distrust of other cultures is global xenophobia. Already with a pandemic closing borders and disrupting trade and travel, global economies are rapidly retooling themselves and looking inward. This turn away from global interaction and increase in nationalism can give way to greater distrust, miscommunications between nations, and the hardening of defenses at the expense of communication, collaboration, and cooperation. That climate creates fertile soil for national posturing and conflicts between nations. As alliances formed after World War II deteriorate in our current times, nations are free to choose whichever side of a conflict they feel best suits their nationalist interests, or allies may simply choose to focus on their own country and sit on the sidelines.
The once typical manner of functioning in a global network can evaporate. Distrust of other nations can lead to a questioning of their actions and motivations, and while that may be prudent for a nation’s enemies, it can lead to global conflicts when broadly applied to all nations.
Internally, countries deep into a xenophobic pattern of thinking decry that foreigners bring crime, spread disease, abuse the welfare system, bring un-American ideas, aren’t Christian, take our jobs, and dilute the racial makeup of a country. These ideological stances and views of foreigners or outsiders may sound familiar to you. In a global xenophobic environment, they are all too common, and nation’s that have turned fully within can begin to rot from within. This can cause civil wars, violent shifts in government, vigilantism, pockets of violent upheaval, and utter chaos in a vacuum of clear leadership.
The compounding effect of cultural divides and global xenophobia, much of which we already see today, can easily break up the bedrock of a stable world. Small cracks can become great divides, and the likelihood of those divisions mending without a violent resetting event are slim to none. Divisions in our current climate tend to become greater and are exponentially increased not diminished by our passive connectivity to a streaming world.
Artificial intelligence was once perceived as computers seeking to conquer and subdue man, but this is anthropomorphic thinking applied to computers– a tendency to assume that computers think as we do. These early views of AI, however, have given way to far more complex and nuanced scenarios, as we see sterile algorithms devoid of emotion serving up content based upon our clicks, likes, searches for information, location, gender, or age.
It is now entirely possible to live in a well supported alternative reality of facts. Individual subjectivity has been replaced with a reinforced communal subjectivity in opposition to further research or inquiry. These silos and small groups increase in size and isolation from traditional structures and are encouraged by the algorithms that continue to feed their belief systems. In this way, computers and artificial intelligence drive us further apart and create a landscape for further conflict.
Beyond the complex algorithms, we have already crossed a point in our global history where automation and technology dependence has gone too far to be scaled back. So, when the technology fails because of conflicts, EMPs, solar flares, or any other reason, the majority of people are left, literally, in the dark. Without the luxuries of transportation, electricity, water, refrigeration for medicine and food, or any of the other multitude of systems now almost entirely technologically dependent, where will a desperate population, unprepared, lacking knowledge about self-sufficiency turn for an answer? Governments? They aren’t likely to find a solution there. Their neighbors? Would your preps be at risk?
Artificial intelligence and technology dependence is a fragile house of cards. It doesn’t take more than a slight breeze for one of the technology systems to fail. When that occurs, the cascading effects can rapidly dismantle even the most stable of society’s structures.
While a potential global economic collapse, divided cultures, global xenophobia and the rise of nationalism, artificial intelligence, and our precarious technology dependence, are all more existential threats, we are at a point in our history where the next threat is no longer hypothetical but is becoming clearer, namely the Sino-American war. When we think of war we tend to think of troops on the ground, airstrikes, and naval conflicts; but war has changed. Even a full-blown nuclear strike by an enemy superpower is less realistic than just three high altitude nuclear detonations causing no fallout but bringing down the power grid and crippling a nation for months or years. War is at a point in our history where foreign provocateurs and terrorists can do more damage than any standing army and have the added benefit of dividing a populous rather than uniting it against a common enemy.
So what would a war with China look like? It isn’t what you may have grown up to think it would be. While America sports forty-three aircraft carriers, for instance, China has two and is in the early construction phases of building a third right now. We also shouldn’t think in terms of long-range weaponry, because the options are limited here as well. One of the things that have kept the peace for so long is the fact that our economies are tied together. We are consumers and they are manufacturers. We print money and sell debt. They buy our debt. So a Sino-American war would most likely be economic and the start of a global shift away from the US dollar as the reserve currency of the world.
There have already been rumors of a crypto-currency backed by the Yuan and gold, and that would be a serious threat to the stability of the dollar. As the trade war continues, the dollar still remains the global fiat currency; but what happens if the dollar weakens and the American market no longer consumes but retracts. It is the mutually assured destruction of our economies that has kept the peace between China and the United States. As China seeks new markets for its products other than the United States amidst an ongoing trade war, the United States becomes less relevant to them, so is keeping the peace in China’s best interest? Would seeking to destabilize the American economy better serve their interests and cause their economy to thrive?
A Sino-American war might not be what you traditionally think of, but it could be happening right now. Whether that’s as overt as foreign provocateurs sowing chaos in an election process or covert attacks on our computerized infrastructure; whether that is through alliances excluding the United States or biological threats, we could already be engaged in the early stages of a war we don’t yet fully realize is occurring. A war at that level reshapes the world and threatens every country’s peace.
So what can we do when we find our world increasingly divided, entrenched in their ways of thinking, dependent on fragile technological systems, on the precipice of a possible war as we have never seen before, and teetering on the precipice of a total global economic meltdown? The answer is simple– prepare. Assure yourself that any disaster will not leave you without the essentials of food and water. Have a plan and the equipment you need when the power goes off and the supply chains stop for not just hours, but potentially weeks and months. Have a plan to bug-in, to make a stand, and to bug-out. Prepare. The smart thing to provide you the security you need to have the peace of mind in a chaotic world is to make sure that your preparations are for the long haul and you are less reliant on obtaining your necessities for living today.
As always, stay safe out there.