The math that predicted the revolutions sweeping the globe right now

f13-iconBrian Merchant writes: It’s happening in Ukraine, Venezuela, Thailand, Bosnia, Syria, and beyond. Revolutions, unrest, and riots are sweeping the globe. The near-simultaneous eruption of violent protest can seem random and chaotic; inevitable symptoms of an unstable world. But there’s at least one common thread between the disparate nations, cultures, and people in conflict, one element that has demonstrably proven to make these uprisings more likely: high global food prices.

Just over a year ago, complex systems theorists at the New England Complex Systems Institute warned us 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.

Bar-Yam built a model with the data, which then predicted that something like the Arab Spring would ensue just weeks before it did. Four days before Mohammed Bouazizi’s self-immolation helped ignite the revolution that would spread across the region, NECSI submitted a government report that highlighted the risk that rising food prices posed to global stability. Now, the model has once again proven prescient — 2013 saw the third-highest food prices on record, and that’s when the seeds for the conflicts across the world were sown. [Continue reading…]

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1 thought on “The math that predicted the revolutions sweeping the globe right now

  1. BillVZ

    An interesting article with perhaps some insight to what is happening. However ,as a vibrant cause –I have my doubts. There are many factors fueling the epidemic of dissent by the people but the cause is the criminal crony capitalist elite and the governments under their patronage. People have had enough! That the months of descent and outrage expressed by the people in Bangkok or the Ukraine is from higher global food prices makes for interesting theory and copy but a real stretch. The real thread is 99% political…..no?

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