(62e) Toward a Leading Indicator of Catastrophic Shifts in Complex Systems: Assessing Changing Conditions in Nation States

Cabezas, H., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Vance, L., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Eason, T., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Gorman, M., University of Virginia
The 20th century was characterized by substantial change on a global scale. There were multiple wars and unrest, social and political transitions, technological innovation and widespread development that impacted every corner of the earth. In order to assess the sustainability implications of these changes, we conducted a study of three advanced nations particularly affected during this time: France, Germany and the United States (USA). All three nation states withstood these changes and yet continued to thrive, which speaks to their resilience. However, we were interested in determining whether any of these countries underwent a regime shift during this period and if they did, whether there was advanced warning that transition was imminent. This study seeks to evaluate systemic trends in each country by exploring key variables that describe its condition over time. We use Fisher Information to assess changing conditions in the nation states based on trends in social, economic and environmental variables and employ Bayes Theorem as an objective means of determining whether declines in Fisher information provide early warning signals of critical transitions. Results indicate that while the United States was relatively stable and France experienced a great deal of change during this period, only Germany appeared to undergo a regime shift. Further, each country exhibited decreasing Fisher information when approaching significant events (e.g., World Wars, Great Depression), and reflected unique mechanisms linked to dynamic changes in each nation state. This study highlights the potential of using trends in Fisher information as a sentinel for evaluating dynamic change and assessing resilience in coupled human and natural systems.[1]

[1] Vance, L., Eason, T., Cabezas, H. and M.E. Gorman, “Toward a leading indicator of catastrophic shifts in complex systems: Assessing changing conditions in nation states,” Heliyon 3 (2017) e00465.

DOI: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2017.e00465.