Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Strauss Kahn's downfall: "Peak Males"?

To the question "what is best in life?" Conan answers, "crush your enemies, see them driven before you, hear the lamentation of the women" (from "Conan the Barbarian", 1982). This kind of macho style was probably out of fashion already in Atlantean times; surely it is even more so in our times. So, the downfall of powerful "alpha males," such as Silvio Berlusconi (and, earlier this year, Dominique Strauss Kahn) may be a sign of an ongoing change: this kind of aggressive leaders may be outdated.

Modern political leaders seem to have evolved over the years with the ability of leading people into battle. Have you ever been close to a high level political leader? They beam charisma all around. They are aggressive, self assured and often display a strong sex drive - they may well be serial womanizers, like Berlusconi and Strauss Kahn. But we may not need them any more: the development of robotic warfare may spell their demise. With robots doing the fighting, controllers can sit comfortably in air conditioned rooms and drink coffee while they kill people at the push of a button. It is another kind of warfare: more like pest extermination than the kind of glorious activity that war used to be. The people engaged in this activity don't need to be macho types a la Conan and, for them, being serial womanizers is definitely a disadvantage. For Berlusconi, at least, it was the case, although not the only reason of his downfall.

So, in analogy with the concept of "peak oil" we might think of a peak followed by a decline for the presence of this kind of males at the top levels of governments. Perhaps, we can call it "Peak Males."


  1. Small typo: Strauss-Khan. Unless it is meant as a nickname for Genghis Khan who was a well-known womanizer in his time. But he wasn't much of a cavalier, despite his fondness of riding horses. ;-)

    This would be a good peak to pass. Hopefully humanity can soon leave this evolutionary stage behind. We need Homo Assholus as much as we need chronic toothache.

  2. Thank you, Neven. Probably I had in mind Gengis Khan, indeed!

  3. First, I want to thank you for an interesting blog. Concerning this entry, you might be right about the demise of alpha males in the short term. However, depending on how far new technologies and political responses to peak oil allow the current trend of increasingly technological warfare to continue, there may also occur an upsurge of even more aggressive types of leaders. - JM

  4. I guess if things truly collapse, chances are that parts of the world will revert to a feudal system with warlords. That is already embedded in the way the (male) masses are programmed through violent movies and games, and a corrupt educational system.

    On Aldous Huxley's Pala (the utopian island-state in his last novel Island) they had a way of recognizing alpha males at an early age and guiding them to fully develop their physical skills (through mountaineering and sports, etc) and at the same develop their sense of responsibility and judgment. Creating gentle giants in a way.

    Ah, well...

  5. Well, it may be argued that alpha males will simply be removed from the human genetic pool by missiles falling from the sky.

  6. I might also comment with an old Japanese proverb that says "the nail that stands up is hammered down". In this case, the "hammer" is a Predator drone hovering in the sky.

  7. @ Neven: Feudalism can indeed be seen the rock-bottom of human societies, at least if we are to believe Rushton Coulborn & co's comparative study "Feudalism in History" from 1956 their argument being that after reaching the state of feudalism, societies seem to be incapable of collapsing to any of the preceeding, even more simple forms of organisation. However, one should keep in mind that the concept of feudalism is rather contested and that the work cited abowe has not gotten that much critical appraisals or follow-up research (at least until about a decade ago) as historians have diverted their attention to other aspects of feudalism/feudal societies.

    Having said that, also corporativist, imperialist and various kinds of nationalist societies may be argued to have appreciated aggressive leaders. So societytypewise, it doesn't necessarily have to go to widespread warlordism in order to get an upsurge of alpha type leaders. There are a number of other options as well.

    @Host: Precision strikes against human targets require precise real-time intelligence which is rather costly to achieve in terms of both money and, more importantly, energy if you consider the system as a whole. What is more, the Predators have also caused their share of collateral damage which has been argued, at least in public debate, to cause a blow-back effect ie. drone attacs creating more adversaries than what they eliminate.

    Despite the reservations mentioned above, I agree that it might be that the drones turn out to be among the most cost effective and energy efficient weaponssystems to operate over long distances. However, there are also other strengthening trends in warfare eg. conflicts being fought increasingly amongst people as described eg. by Sir Rupert Smith in his "The Utility of Force" (2005).

    How it all plays out regarding warfare depends, in my opinion, to a very large degree on what kind of challenges peak oil poses to exsisting military equipment, what kinds of new technologies will become available and what kind of political and societal reactions there will be to any arising challenges. - JM



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)