The Energy (R)evolution: not just about energy and not just about the U.S. (Part II)
If the global companies analyze the global system from the point of view of complexity science they would avoid thinking about system developments, changes and bifurcations as revolutionary or transformational in themselves. No, they are not. All elements within the system are interrelated like within a living organism. If the global system is a living organism then system (r)evolution can be induced at every cell/organ or node level and the elements of the system will find an adaptive mechanism to undergo transformation. Being an element of this living organism the global companies need to decipher the adaptive strategy for success.
The U.S. Energy (R)evolution is an element of this transformation. From the perspective of complexity theory claiming that the U.S. Energy (R)evolution is a fact per se is profoundly misleading. The process is not self-induced, it is to great extend closely related with the global crisis of 2008. It seems to be a source of independence, economic growth and job creation as well as a synonym of technological advance, but there is also a whole financial framework implicated, exhibiting a multilayered behavior of actors with seemingly invisible interests. As for the export potential behind the process we should not forget the “resource curse” that does not affect only “failed states” but it does lead to failure at many levels (not strictly national in character).
The U.S. Energy (R)evolution is a structural element, a node in the process of an emerging, accelerated and thus inducing high levels of uncertainty and risk global redistribution of assets. And by being a node it will affect similar nodes and the structure of flows in the global system. For example, the U.S. is definitely not the only country with untapped shale gas resources. Because we are talking about a living organism in short to medium term it is expected that other countries will apply the same model leading to reduced demand for conventional energy resources, which may cause turmoil in countries rich in oil and natural gas, leading to instability in these regions, and beyond. So if the (R) evolution is happening it is certainly not a unique development per se and from the point of view of complexity it is more probable that the final outcome will not have a multiplier (positive) effect but will more than anything else have a butterfly effect with all the implied system bifurcations.
Another (R)evolution that is going on in the global system and that can be traced back to the global crisis is the one that took down Morsi – the first democratically elected president of Egypt, that is transforming the MENA region, that is shedding blood in Syria, that is shaking Turkey, Brazil and other countries such as Bulgaria, Greece… and the ones’ that will follow. This is also a (R)evolution to redeem independence – yet another form of economic independence – the (R)evolution to redeem human dignity as a consequence of the crisis of legitimacy and identity at various levels of the social emergence paradigm. As with the process of the Energy (R)evolution the actors of these events are multifaceted and have a multilayered behavior thus making the outcome of the process highly unpredictable.
Complexity science applies non-linear thinking. The reason why we look at these seemingly unrelated developments in the global system is because they are both elements of the (R)evolution of this system, the transformation of the living organism and because they are parts in the puzzle with important implications for the future of the global system. Another non-linear link is the fact that the countries thorn by the conflicts and the revendications of a civil society that wants to be heard are also countries rich not only in conventional energy resources but also in shale gas or countries strategically important from the point of view of global energy security. We thus look with suspicion at the optimism behind the Energy (R)evolution the same way we were suspicious about the optimism surrounding the Arab spring and the same way we are suspicious about the claims that Turkey will never be again “the sick man of Europe” ( to some analysts it seems that way probably because Europe is so sick that what is going on in Turkey looks like just a seasonal flu).
There is one difference between these two processes – the Energy (R) evolution is an institutionally induced process while the Social (R)evolution is the revolt of the individual. The global system has been deconstructed due to the resource depletion but from the perspective of complexity science the system is highly adaptive….or in other words the system is inherently (R)evolutionary. So where is the strategic risk from the point of view of complexity? Not seeing the interrelatedness of the processes and consequently not being able to find complex adaptive solutions. The opportunity for the global companies would be to find the missing link in the social emergence pyramid and build an adaptive and responsive strategy – one that will make them successful as elements in the living organism and that will at the same time offer solutions to the questions of the (R)evolution. But before that the global companies need to communicate and cooperate with the different parts of the living organism they are an intrinsic part of.
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