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Energy, complexity and interior development in civilisational renewal

Joshua Floyd (Joshua Floyd is an independent strategic foresight practitioner based in Melbourne, Australia)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 9 August 2013




Slaughter has proposed futures in which interior human development matches that of technological development as the best prospect for avoiding catastrophic collapse through overshoot of the Earth's carrying capacity. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the importance of the primary energy resource context in making sense of the prospects for such futures, and to consider how subtle changes to conceptual models for understanding the nature of human development can offer alternate pathways for proceeding in light of the fundamental limits this imposes.


Conceptual models for the relationship between energy and social complexity are reviewed, and proposals for connecting social complexity with interior human development are discussed. Popular models of interior human development are critiqued in light of recent clarifications relating to Integral Theory; and specific reconceptualisations are proposed.


Technological and interior human development are intimately linked. There are important interdependencies between energy and social complexity that must be taken into account in establishing expectations for the way that these realms might evolve together. This presents significant challenges for realising on a society‐wide scale development of the nature commonly associated with Integral Theory. However, alternative ways of conceptualising such development offer fresh opportunities for confronting the spectre of environmental and social breakdown.


The implications of models relating social complexity and resource context are extended to questions of human interior development; the unit of development is extended from the individual in relative isolation to the organism‐in‐environment.



Floyd, J. (2013), "Energy, complexity and interior development in civilisational renewal", On the Horizon, Vol. 21 No. 3, pp. 218-229.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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