Imagine that the world is a large sandpile that has built up over many years. There are hills and valleys all over this sandpile. Over time the entire pile has gotten too high, and fingers of instability connect all regions of the sandpile. When a collapse in one areas occurs, it can be transmitted to other areas.
A random event starts a collapse in one area. The effect is transmitted to other areas, and they gradually start to collapse. More collapses are transmissions to other areas. These new areas start to tremble.
You are now warned that the entire sandpile is at risk of state change. A state change means the entire sandpile could collapse with the end result looking nothing like the original. An example of state change occurs when water gets close to freezing. All of a sudden it goes from water to ice – state change.
The world today is like the sandpile above. There are collapses and trembling around the world, but we don’t know where it is going to lead. However, rapid state change is possible through war.
With the Middle East in turmoil, other authoritarian states jumpy and post-crisis economic pain prompting protest in western Europe and elsewhere, some suspect a systemic rise in worldwide unrest might just be beginning.
Instability in the already volatile oil-producing Middle East could produce a feedback loop where unrest pushes up energy prices, fuelling inflation and deepening discontent both in the region and around the world.
In most countries, the so-called “misery index” — an aggregation of unemployment and inflation long seen as a warning of protest and instability — is pushing higher.