Reference #374: Thinking in Systems

Escalation is a system archetype wherein the desired state of one stock is continually set above the perceived state of another stock, and vice versa. This results in a reinforcing feedback loop where both sides compete more forcefully to balance the level of stocks (consider an arms race, or escalating violence). Since the escalation is exponential, extremes can be reached very quickly. Without intervention the result will be the collapse of one side, since exponential growth cannot be sustained indefinitely.

There are two solutions to escalation. The first is unilateral disarmament. By deliberately reducing your own system's state, you induce the other side to also reduce their state and so interrupt the reinforcing loop — you refuse to compete. The other, more difficult to implement, solution is to redesign the system with balancing loops. For example, you could regulate the size of advertising billboards, or provide peace-keeping troops to violence-prone areas.

Meadows. Thinking in Systems, 2008. (124-126)

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