Examples of increasing complexity

Posted on ma 08 februari 2021 in blog

Below are a number of examples of growing complexity due to available energy surplus. As the available energy inexorably turns down we will be forced to live by the Permaculture principle of Use Slow and Small Solutions.


  • 1800s: engine, brakes, frame, wheels, steering wheel;
  • 2020s: as above but with: power steering, rear view camera, airbags, traction control, rain sensor, motor management, satelite navigation, cruise control, air conditioning, automatic windows, and more.

Drilling Oil Wells

  • 1800s: drilling 21m deep; oil used for kerosine lamps;
  • 2020s: rotary drilling, floating rigs, horizontal drilling, seismic survey's, 3D modelling, fracking tight oil (shale), boiling tar sands; oil used for transportation, chemicals, plastics, road surfaces, packaging and much, much more.


  • 1800s: doctor, pharmacy, hospital, surgeon, nurse, dentist, priest, bartender;
  • 2020s: as above but with: specialized hospitals for children, cancer patients, heart patients, eye patients, burn patients, tropical diseases, cosmetic alterations; doctors specializing in different body parts and body systems; organizations split on body care and mind care.


  • 1800s: safety deposit and (very limited) lending
  • 2020s: credit cards, bonds, stocks, options, futures, collateralized debt obligations, zero interest-rate policy (ZIRP), negative interest-rate policy (NIRP), modern money theory (MMT)


  • 1800s: learning to read and write, university, professor
  • 2020s: kindergarten, primary school, secundary school, college, university, evening classes, bachelor degree, masters degree, doctoral degree, post doctoral degree.


  • 1800s: Napoleontic law
  • 2020s: national laws, municipal rules, EU rules, WTO rules, UN declaration of rights, environmental laws, rulings