Dmitry Orlov, “Social Collapse Best Practices”

Posted on Monday, February 16th, 02009 by Stewart Brand
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Dmitry Orlov

Managing social collapse

With vintage Russian black humor, Orlov described the social collapse he witnessed in Russia in the 1990s and spelled out its practical lessons for the American social collapse he sees as inevitable. The American economy in the 1990s described itself as “Goldilocks”—just the right size—when in fact is was “Tinkerbelle,” and one day the clapping stops. As in Russia, the US made itself vulnerable to the decline of crude oil, a trade deficit, military over-reach, and financial over-reach…

Read the rest of Stewart Brand’s Summary

  • When will the audio or video of this presentation become available as mentioned on ?

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  • I do not think you can create a model for the emerging US economy based on the past Soviet collapse experience. Completely different baselines in culture, human resources and technology. The movement to urban centers is balanced by increases in both technology access and tools for working online from anywhere. Teams of workers can collaborate globally now.

    Rememebr what Bucky Fuller was envisioning when he was at SIU? The world game computer is now real – the internet. The emerging economy will reward intelligence, creativity and focus no less than at any other time in history. The longview is not so dire – I can envision an Amish style rural movement supported by technology that connects people with projects that rewire, rebuild and renew the whole earth civilization.

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  • Eric Knudtson

    “Teams of workers can collaborate globally now.” – I’d believe this if I saw US retail sales workers organizing with their Chinese production “comrades” for higher wages. If “teams” of workers can’t collaborate locally to get a raise from the managers of their Bed Bath and Beyond, what makes you think they can collaborate globally?

    I myself am a 5-year tech consultant and I can tell you nothing beats a 10 minute face-to-face meeting. Amish style! Amish style indeed. My personal preference would be to go for projects that de-wire, de-build and de-new the western earth civilization.

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  • Mark Sowers

    Hit em where it hurts Eric !

    I like the statement from ‘Cassandra Does Tokyo’ blogpost. She outlines whether we will have “a neolithic existence, a Mad-Max or Blade-runner-esque future imminently awaiting us. I’ll return to my Campari & Soda.” So she will sit this one out. Who can blame her. Author Jim Kunstler ( has some very definite commentary about US culture and where we’re probably heading. And if you are really distressed, like me, then point your mouse over to Les Visible for some clues. Viel Glück! Mark

  • pbrouse
  • Ender

    I was surprised and disappointed with this lecture. Long Now Foundation hosted some incredible people, like Nassim Taleb, Niall Ferguson etc. so it was a big and unpleasant surprise to see Mr Orlov lecture. He is SO wrong in SO many things that is hard to believe any one gives any attention to his theories. I was born in a communist country, just as Dmitry Orlov, so I can tell first hand how those ‘postivies’ of a communist society in face of a collapse really look like. Actually all of the ‘positives’ of USSR/FSU he mentions are in fact negatives and the reason why Russia still can’t be called a free market democracy and the standard of living is much lower than in western countries. Just to name a few points:
    – Ineffective administration/companies are a BAD thing, because you keep people doing the wrong things for longer time. Ineffectiveness and central planning of the whole system was one of the reasons for the communist block’s collapse.
    – the infrastructure was the Achilles’ Heel of communist countries. The ‘over-engineering’ Orlov is speaking about has nothing to do with robustness and durability. Communist loved to build huge, monument-like structures, but they were done very poorly. The work ethic in the workers paradise was very low and with chronic material shortages and theft the whole infrastructure was and still is in a dire state.
    – the lack of mobility meant that the whole society was less likely to adopt to new conditions.
    – the community/workers gardens for growing vegetables aren’t usually bigger than an average lawn in front of a suburb single family house.
    I’ll stop there, but I could go on, point by point.
    Long Now Foundation is really a fantastic place and I enjoyed watching all the lectures. This one was only amusing, but not thought provoking and not very thoughtful. It wasn’t about long term thinking, it was based on short sited thinking and extrapolating certain social processes from a very unique historical event.

  • Old Man

    I have to agree with Ender. These two “Superpowers” were different in almost every respect before their collapse, or supposed impeding collapse. Beyond that, the former Soviet Union is not doing all that well these days – look at their plummeting life expectancy, for example. The real causes of the Soviet Union’s collapse were not the ones he cited, and they will not cause a similar collapse in the US. We have our problems, which many past speakers have addressed, but Orlov is way off the mark.

    So please – pick better speakers for future talks.

  • I also have to agree with Ender and Old Man on this one. Soviet Russia, like many prior iterations of the expanded Russian empire, operated on different geopolitical principles than the U.S.

    The United States is chiefly a trading nation that controls the international trade system with the most powerful navy the Earth has ever seen. The Russian Federation is an insular and sparsely populated nation with very little in the way of trading river routes. Its military power has never tracked with its economic power. Even when its nation’s inhabitants were starving, it could field an impressive military. Its people can endure economic hardship in a way that U.S. citizens can scarcely imagine.

    Its traditions and moods are extremely different. I don’t want to be long winded, so I’ll stop here. While there were interesting thought exercises in this lecture, it was not up to the standards that I’ve come to expect from The Long Now. I seldom come across a lecture that I don’t find riveting, so I’m not sure how strong an indictment this is. All the best to this fine organization.

  • Sasha Lopes

    Since Stewart Brand is essentially a CIA stooge – see here: – should we put Orlov is the same boat? Unfortunately, yes.

  • rollo

    i have a question can immigration have an impact with nearby countries im sure you are a where of 1070 in arizona and will the us lose allies during this period and and could this add more would to the burning fire and how come felipe calderon hasnt rasied hell over the us and why do rasist scream inaproprite things to mexican american 8yr olds and can i avoid a draft please anwser my question mr orlov

  • Please give me more information. I love it, Thanks again.

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