The term tipping-point has entered the average American’s vocabulary since Malcolm Gladwell published The Tipping-Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference but in this blog that term will be compared to Snapping-Point. Both of these terms refer to some stress creating factor forcing a system towards a condition where an effect takes place which quickly releases the accumulated stress.
A standard household light switch is a typical example of this effect where you push the lever slowly until eventually only a little additional movement and the switch suddenly releases – and the light goes ON — or OFF. An earthquake is a similar event but a natural one which happens when some very deep flow of magma finally pushes the not so deep rocks to a point where something breaks lose and a whole line of stress along the fault, perhaps many miles long, is released rather quickly. A Doomsday event is similar where vast amounts of accumulated energy are suddenly released. In all of these examples if the stress is backed off and eased to a lower level before the event the system would not transition abruptly or at all.
Each of these these soon to be defined transitions will behave with a sudden shift but I perceive a difference between inherently different processes and the two words tipping-point and snapping point describe the precursor conditions which are quite distinct. Between these two catastrophe processes there is a difference which by using different words it becomes clear what the differences are. With the tipping-point type there can be a gradual rolling over of the ultimate stress zone and perhaps even a pulling back before the catastrophic event has gone too far and a small reversal of the stress will bring it back to stability but without that reversed effort it will grow increasingly energetic. With the snapping-point there is no possibility of pull back.
With a snapping-point the approach to the last stable point is different it is more of a straight line growth of risk but with the no new stress increasing up to the catastrophic event and up until that event no easily measurable change is present. With a tipping-point where there is an easily observed difference.
Tipping-point might be compared to pushing a pole up to a vertical position where it balances, at which time it is almost stable but when pushed a little further will slowly at first start to fall over slowly and then start to smoothly accelerate until it has fallen all the way down to a stable position.
Snapping-point is more like pushing a plate toward the edge of a table and stopping occasionally before it falls. One could push and stop and push again stop again with no risk of snapping right up to the snapping-point and to blind outside observer to see the relationships there wouldn’t be any catastrophic risk at all until the plate fell.
These may be important distinctions when discussing Doomsday precursors because when that day comes the different types of precursors may determine the visibility of when the irreversible events will occur. With a tipping-point type of stress the governments and perhaps the public would see the events developing. That is what happened during the Cuba Missile Crisis in 1962 and some civilians departed from potential target areas. A tipping-point type Doomsday war might have precursor warnings like generalized ongoing growing tensions. Such things as increased population, global warming causing generalized problems, or a food shortage, or perhaps even a totally natural event such as an earthquake could lead to an accidental but near instant ramp up and instant escalation which trigger a war. Everyone could see it coming in the broadest possible context of preexisting tensions but there are always tensions and people expect the authorities to take care of them.
Snapping points are like pure accidental triggering of existing defensive super-weapons systems which send atomic bomb tipped missiles on a non-recallable attack mission. Or a preplanned attack which is secretly initiated. There is no warning in either of these types of Doomsday disasters other than their possibility and therefore there is no way to avoid being destroyed by their effects other than to be positioned in such a way that you are unaffected when they do happen.
These precursor considerations could make a lot of difference as to how the authorities would behave and also how an individual should behave personally in response to these stresses both in the long term of getting totally out of the way or in the short term of trying to time the hostilities and flee at the last moment.
There have been several posts on this Probaway blog about what to watch for as possible tipping-points and snapping-points for the world slipping over into a Doomsday event.
and many more.
The best procedure in these kinds of dangerous but unpredictable catastrophic events says Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his Black Swan, — it’s to, identify catastrophic risks and be somewhere else long before it happens.