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Math Models Predicted Global Uprisings 265

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-food-no-peace dept.
retroworks writes "Just over a year ago, complex systems theorists at the New England Complex Systems Institute warned that if food prices continued to climb, so too would the likelihood that there would be riots across the globe. Sure enough, we're seeing them now. The paper's author, Yaneer Bar-Yam, charted the rise in the FAO food price index—a measure the UN uses to map the cost of food over time—and found that whenever it rose above 210, riots broke out worldwide. It happened in 2008 after the economic collapse, and again in 2011, when a Tunisian street vendor who could no longer feed his family set himself on fire in protest."
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Math Models Predicted Global Uprisings

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  • Hindsight? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @05:00AM (#46293161) Homepage

    Is that with hindsight or without?

    How many "models" are going unreported because they didn't work out too well?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sjwt (161428)

      Its worse then that, their little graph only shows a handful of riots that they want to be on their.

      I dont see any riots that do not meet their own agenda on it, hell the french riot a few times every year, I see none of the Australian riots I know of.
      Total BS

      • Re:Hindsight? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @07:44AM (#46293565)

        I dont see any riots that do not meet their own agenda on it

        Or, they're simply trying to demonstrate that lack of food security causes riots, not that all riots are caused by lack of food security.

      • by sumdumass (711423)

        I don't think the intent was to provide for all riots, just ones that met their criteriA when the fao index climbed above 210.

        In essence, they are saying when X happens, Y follows. Not that all of Y is created by X. In a car anology, it would be like a new person shows up in New York City. We know when people cross the George Wahongton bridge in their car fro. West to east, they end up in NYC. But we also know they can fly in and enter from other routes by car too.so while X is true for Y, but Y is not limi

    • by Chad Smith (3448823) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @05:08AM (#46293177)
      Models don't eat anyways
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Well the popular "hampster uprising" has not happened, but a lot of the doomsayers are still holding out for it to happen. It has become one of the most desirable outcomes.

      Who wouldn't want a cute fuzzy wuzzy supreme leader?

    • That's how one should work with models. Create lots of them, throw away the ones that didn't work, test the ones that work again and again to confirm that it wasn't just by chance.

      We are at the second step here, and have a model to pay attention now.

      • by tompaulco (629533)
        You forgot: test the ones that work again and again, with more and more input until all of them fail, and then publish the last one that failed.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    hari seldon did that first with psychohistory I seem to recall..

    • But even he was unable to forsee the Mule.

      • That is the problem with random mutations. They are unpredictable, both in when they will appear and in how they will affect society.

      • by cellocgw (617879)

        But even [Seldon] was unable to forsee the Mule.

        Dunno -- my vote is still that the Mule was another leftover positronic-brain-based robot with a (bad pun alert!) chip on his shoulder.

        Seldon probably correctly assumed that all such robots had been lost or destroyed millennia earlier.

  • by nut (19435) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @05:09AM (#46293181) Homepage

    What worries me about this sort of knowledge, is that it could make it possible for political leaders to keep the masses working their asses off just above the breadline. But they can avoid pushing it so far that they get the kind of political activism that might result in regime change.

    • by BlackPignouf (1017012) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @06:03AM (#46293315)

      it could ???
      "Bread and circuses" is a 2000 years old expression.

      • by swb (14022)

        You mean to say it's a 2000 year old *system*, not just an expression.

        • by khallow (566160)
          It's older than that. For example, there's the "palace economies" of the bronze age, for example, the pharaohs of Egypt. So the earliest systems of this kind probably are 4000 or more years old.
    • "make it possible for industrial leaders and bankers to keep the masses working their asses off just above the breadline."
      FTFY

    • by hjf (703092)

      The problem with these uprisings, particularly in Ukraine and Venezuela, is that they're not fueled by food prices. I don't know the fine details about the Ukrainian case but I've been reading quite a lot about Venezuela. And I happen to live in Argentina so I see a lot of parallels between the Venezuelan case and the Argentinian (Venezuela is a little window to the future for us Argentinians).

      Basically, Chavez got to power through a coup in the 90s. Since then, Venezuela has been going downhill. Like all "

    • by ultranova (717540)

      What worries me about this sort of knowledge, is that it could make it possible for political leaders to keep the masses working their asses off just above the breadline.

      "Just above breadline" is also known as "living wage", and is a bleeding heart liberal position, verging on outright communism. Why do you hate freedom so much, comrade?

      But they can avoid pushing it so far that they get the kind of political activism that might result in regime change.

      I wouldn't worry about it too much. There are plenty o

  • I've read a lot of those old "doomsaying" articles and in general they're interesting. But the Malthusians have been preaching the same apocalypses for a long time now and they've generally failed to come true.

    I agree resource scarcity is essentially at the root of most of our problems, and over at http://www.dictatorshandbook.n... [dictatorshandbook.net] the discussion basically revolves around the idea that religious wars are a proxy for resource grabs, while bad governments either prevent more violence or promote it to achieve

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I've read a lot of those old "doomsaying" articles and in general they're interesting. But the Malthusians have been preaching the same apocalypses for a long time now and they've generally failed to come true.

      Except this guy predicted riots which then did not fail to come true. So uh, what does that have to do with this?

  • by esldude (1157749) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @06:01AM (#46293313)
    http://news.slashdot.org/story... [slashdot.org] A rare instance of getting it right. This very prediction was predicted before the riots happened. Predicted when, and wasn't too terribly far off I suppose. Of course slashdot having no memory didn't even realize it was already covered.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @06:33AM (#46293373) Homepage

    AngryPeople + BadGovernment = Uprising

    • No, there must be something else in the mix. Or do we just get no reports about the riots all over the US?

  • Do we really need complex systems theorists to tell us that "if food prices continued to climb, so too would the likelihood that there would be riots across the globe"?!?

    Okay then, where do I apply for D.O.T.O.M.O.O. (Department of the Obvious Made Obviously Obvious)?

    RT.

  • Just as much (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chrisq (894406) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @06:38AM (#46293385)

    Racist much? Maybe not. Islamaphobic much, though?

    If you mean hating an ideology that wants to subdue or kill all others then I suppose I am just as islamaphobic as the allies in WWII were naziphobic.

    • Re:Just as much (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @09:13AM (#46293891)

      Actually, most Muslims are by no means radical. Quite a few are pissed at the radical asshats who give the whole bunch a bad name. And bluntly, most of the "radicals" don't give a shit about Islam actually. They just noticed that this is how they get us to listen. Just say "I'm gonna bomb your $place" and suddenly the "Westener" shuts up and listens. They found out that this works. Not only that, but that we start apologizing for "insulting" them. So anything we do or say is suddenly an insult.

      Fuck it!

      If you don't wanna see caricatures of your prophet, you can do what I did because I didn't like "2 girls 1 cup". I simply didn't look. Yes, whoever looks at it is a sicko, or for you, dear Islamist, a heretic but guess what, it's none of your business. I will not apologize for not being like you want me to be. Why? Because in my country where I live I can be the way I want to be! If I come to some country where the Islam is considered the state religion, I will of course heed the laws there and yes, that means that I will certainly not show around caricatures of your Prophet, because that's not allowed there. No problem. Your country, your rules.

      But my country, my rules! And it's gonna be a very cold day in HELL before I let some radical, religious idiot rule my country.

      (which is, btw, also a reason why I'd rather not move to the US)

    • by hey! (33014)

      The rational response was not to hate Nazism per se, but the things that made it vicious. Xenophobia and scapegoating are high on that list. Once you are committed against xenophobia and ultra-nationalism in general, it automatically follows that you're committed against Nazism in particular.

      Likewise it makes no sense for you to fear Islam per se, but rather the vicious things you associate with Islam.

      If you knew more about Islam, you would see that those things are not universal in people who consider them

    • by dcollins (135727)

      I call BS. For a decade I've lived in a predominantly Muslim area of Brooklyn, NY and not once has anyone tried to subdue or kill me.

      There have been nights where something wonky happened in another neighborhood and I breathed a sigh of relief when I got back here and felt safe again.

    • by T.E.D. (34228)

      If you mean hating an ideology that wants to subdue or kill all others ....

      It certainly isn't impossible to find stuff that implies that in the Koran. However, it isn't impossible to find stuff that implies that in The Bible either. Cherry-pick a verse here or there, and it can look pretty bad. It misses the point of the religion completely to do that, but I've seen it done.

      So out of curiosity, do you hate Christianity too, or are you just being selective about which religion you apply those standards to?

      For any Christian reading the parent and thinking perhaps its fine to throw

  • I demand that Scrooge McDuck release all the grain that he has hoarded in his Money Bin, right now!
  • The so called bread price was always a key trigger for uprisings. If the price climbed faster than the actual income of the people, hunger was unavoidable. And of course people tend to become violent when they have suddenly not enough to eat.

  • I call BS... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by captainpanic (1173915) on Thursday February 20, 2014 @08:25AM (#46293689)

    In 2006, the food index was only 127. Yet, there were 15 large scale riots, 9 large scale strikes, 6 wars, of which at least 2 new wars in 2006, and countless other conflicts not mentioned on the wikipedia page about conflicts in 2006. And I just picked a random year.

    Conflicts (general): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org]
    Strikes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org]
    Riots: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org]
    Food index: http://www.fao.org/worldfoodsi... [fao.org]

    • by argStyopa (232550)

      Agreed.
      While I suspect that yes, food costs and shortages certainly make such uprisings more likely (hungry people tend to get a little crabby and short tempered) the causality of this is highly suspect.

      I'd suspect that yes, at extreme values, hunger can drive civil issues. Otherwise it's more of an aggravating factor, as the uprisings around the world in 2013 were - at least as far as the news covered them - largely political and opportunistic. Note in particular the sort of 'infectious' pattern, where o

    • Indeed. With a world as large and complex as we have, there are virtually always conflicts that can be cited as happening at any given time. Being able to point out that some happened when a particular trigger condition was met does not in an of itself even demonstrate correlation, let alone causation.

  • We need a model to tell us that food shortages increase the risk of uprisings? How about one that tells us the probability of riots when the temperature increases. Sounds like someone got funding, and produced a study proving the obvious.

    And, I may be completely off base since I didn't read TFA.

  • Shocking! Who would have ever guessed before the advent of complicated math models that food riots tend to occur when food prices go up !

    Next up, complicated fluid dynamics models that show that when it rains, you may get wet.

  • Just maybe we might want to consider making it illegal to use farm land to make ethanol. And maybe we could keep prices down in the US if we halted the export of agricultural products and seafood. And if we were ever intelligent enough to close our borders and have enforced birth control quotas we could regain economic sanity.
  • The FAO food price index doesn't appear to be especially "up" right now:

    http://www.fao.org/worldfoodsi... [fao.org]

    So how does this model work again?

    • Obviously you haven't been paying attention [autoblog.com]. The same ones that move our food to our local grocery stores. Diesel trucks already are pretty damn efficient for what they do. And being that fuel prices already cut into barely-living wage standards (and unsafe sleepless driving), it's to their advantage to increase MPG through market forces on their own. The main goal of Obama isn't to increase the MPG standards, but reduce greenhouse emissions from semi trucks. The goals may be one-in-the-same, but the premis

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