with Spencer Greenberg
the podcast about ideas that matter

Episode 066: Why do civilizations collapse? And is ours next? (with Samo Burja)

August 20, 2021

What is "long" history? Why don't historians usually focus on what happened before recorded human history? What (if anything) is special about agriculture when it comes to the development of civilization? How far back does human civilization go, and why should we care? Have humans always been gardeners? What factors cause civilizations to crumble or thrive? Should we reboot standardized tests and college admissions every few decades so that measures don't become targets? Which destructive factors are particularly salient to modern human civilization? Why is there such a disconnect between our intuition that progress is inevitable and our knowledge that virtually all civilizations have collapsed in the past? In other words, what makes us think that we'll succeed where others have failed? How does a functional social institution differ from a failing one? What is the "great founder" theory?

Samo Burja is the founder of Bismarck Analysis, a consulting firm that investigates the political and institutional landscape of society; a research fellow at the Long Now Foundation; and a senior research fellow in political science at the Foresight Institute. Samo's studies focus on the social and material technologies that provide the foundation for healthy human societies, with an eye to engineering and restoring the structures that produce functional institutions. He has authored articles and papers on his findings. His manuscript, Great Founder Theory, is available online. You can find him on Twitter at @samoburja, on YouTube at @samoburja, or on his website,

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Spencer Greenberg

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