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

Sunday, June 9, 2019

"The Seneca Strategy" -- Asking for Suggestions from my Readers

About Amelia the Amoeba, she is a pedigreed Naegleria Fowleri, a species known for her habit of eating human brains - an interesting case of a Seneca Collapse for the owner of the brain. But Amelia is a good girl and she won't do that to you if you are nice to her.

My second book on the concept of "Seneca Collapse" (or Cliff, or Ruin, or the like) is nearly completed and it should be available from Springer before the end of the year. It is a sequel to my first book, "The Seneca Effect", but this second one is thought as more easily readable "trade" book. It will be sold at a reasonable price, unlike the first one that was supposed to be a specialized, scientific book.

You see above a first attempt at a title and a cover for this book. Of course, the publisher will devise a better cover illustration, but the real issue is the title, still provisional. I used "The Seneca Strategy" as a title because the book focuses on how to deal with collapses rather than on the physics of collapses. It proposes a strategy that's based on the Stoic view of the world revisited under the lens of system dynamics. It is the idea that you don't try to force systems to do what you want them to do, a concept that Jay Forrester termed "pushing the levers in the wrong direction."

But, as it stands, the title is no good. My editor told me that, "“collapse” is not a friendly, or familiar, word to most readers. It seems to apply only to extreme events that don’t affect most people. " That is, people won't understand what the book is about. I think he is correct and that I need a better title -- a title that explains what's inside the book.

So, dear readers, could you focus your creative skills on this task and suggest a few titles for me? I think the title should contain the words "collapse" and "Seneca," but then there are many possibilities, for instance, I am toying with "Paths to Ruin" but creativity often consists in trying many different ideas and I am sure many of you could suggest something good. Hoping that not all of my readers are bots, I'll sure appreciate your efforts! (Amelia will also be grateful)

Here is the index of the book, to give you some idea of what it is about.

  1. Table of Contents
1. Preface 4
1.1 A quick glossary of the terms you’ll find in this book. 5
2. Summary: Six Things You Should Know About Collapse 6
3. Plan of the Book (not necessarily to be published) 8
4. Collapse: An Introduction 9
5. Models of Collapse 14
5.2 The Limits of Models. Nightfall on Lagash 23
5.3 Why Models are not Believed: The Croesus Syndrome 29
6. The Science of Collapse 36
6.1 Complex Systems: The Goddess’ Wrath 36
6.2 The Power of Networks: The Ghost in the Shell 42
6.3 Living and Dying in a Complex Universe. The Story of Amelia the Amoeba. 52
7. The Practice of Collapse 76
7.1 The Collapse of Engineered Structures: For Dust you are and to Dust you Will Return 76
7.2 Financial Collapses: Blockbuster goes bust. 84
7.3 Natural Disasters: Florence’s Great Flood 94
7.4 Mineral Collapses: The Coming Oil Crisis? 103
7.5 The Seneca Cliff and Human Violence: Fatal Quarrels. 111
7.6 Famines, Epidemics, and Depopulation: The Zombie Apocalypse 117
7.7 The Big One: Societal Collapse 125
7.8 Apocalypse: the collapse of the Earth’s ecosystem 132
8. Strategies for Managing Collapse 138
8.1 Technological Progress against Collapse. The Cold Fusion Miracle that Wasn’t. 138
8.2 Avoiding Overexploitation. Drill, Baby, Drill! 148
8.3 Leadership Against Collapse: The Last Roman Empress. 155
8.4 Collapse as a Weapon: The Iago Strategy 164
8.5 Deception as a Strategy: the Camper’s Dilemma 174
8.6 Life After Collapse: The Seneca Rebound 181
9. Conclusion: The Seneca Strategy 189
11. Acknowledgment 195


  1. "Back to Basics: How to Thrive in the Coming New World".

    best. L.

  2. Titles for your new book:
    How to Deal With Hard Times
    The Seneca Strategy

  3. it sounds great, I think I will buy it.
    Will it available via

    1. Everything is available via The only thing I was unable to find was an authentic water gourd. Just because nobody makes 'em anymore.

  4. The Seneca Prophecy
    Seneca's Prophecy
    The Seneca Curve
    Subtitle: Progress is slow, ruin is rapid

  5. "When Things Disintegrate:
    A Strategy for Survival"
    (or maybe "The Seneca Strategy for Survival")

  6. How about;
    "Beyond the Tipping Point"

    1. I like that Kev. Maybe a subtitle "But everything looks fine".

  7. arménio pereiraJune 9, 2019 at 1:35 PM

    "The Seneca Strategy: a guide for the rational doomer"

    Because doomporn sells?
    Best wishes.

  8. Will you replace "collapse" in the section titles as well? I'm asking because I like "hard times" suggested by RL Smith, but not sure it would work as a general synonym. "Tipping point" is perhaps the moment before collapse. "Disintegrate" might be the moment after. There is other popular discussion of climate tipping points. If collapse is an unfamiliar word, "Seneca" will be more so, except for people who know its a city in New York. Perhaps 'catastrophe' carries some of the magnitude of collapse, but maybe you don't want to like to catastrophism...

  9. arménio pereiraJune 9, 2019 at 1:48 PM

    "A rational demise: The Seneca Strategy"

    Sorry, doomporn just keeps creepin'.
    Thanks for your patience.

  10. Further review of the TOC -- I don't see an easy (and accurate) synonym for collapse ( , and it appears you are using it frequently with intention. Maybe move it to the subtitle: The Seneca Strategy Learning from and managing collapse.

  11. Descent From The Peak: The Seneca Collapse

  12. The Seneca Curse

    I also like the "Seneca Prophecy" from above

  13. You need to use the word collapse, but not in the title. Perhaps rename Sec 1.1: Collapse and other terms you'll find in this book

    Then I think KevinH has a good title, or 'Navigating our world beyond tipping points' subtitle can work in Seneca, perhaps the one by Neels

    For graphics, perhaps graphs from the original Limits -- in lineprinter style as a background

  14. End Running Collapse: The Seneca Game Plan

    Outfoxing Collapse: Seneca's Strategy Now?

  15. Remaining Civil in Civilizations Fall

  16. If the publisher doesn't want "collapse" because it is obscure, then "Seneca" is even more obscure, so neither should be in the title. But looking at the table of contents, "collapse" is by far the most relevant word so you should push back against your publisher. "Seneca Collapse" is just fine.

  17. Some "salesy" suggestions for piquing interest. Here in the USA, at least, few people know of Seneca, but Stoicism is popular, at least among people who still read books.

    Title: DOWNSLIDE
    Subtitle: Stoic Wisdom on Rebuilding Civilization
    Alt subtitle: Stoic Wisdom on Thriving in Uncertain Times

    Title: RUIN IS RAPID

    Title: Changing Fortunes
    (A nod to Boethius)

  18. How about an allusion to Gibbons:
    " The rise and fall of the oil empire"

    Or something simple:
    "The Seneca Descent"

    Or to be dramatic you could quote Private Frazer from Dad's Army:
    "We're Doomed"

  19. Ugo
    Some good suggestions I see already!
    I too thought of 'Hard Times'
    How about Running Down with Seneca -
    Steep Ground & Hard Times
    The cover illustration might include a nimble figure running on top the rocks?

  20. Ugo,

    " From hard slide to collapse"

    Bons baisers de France.


  21. A Seneca Strategy: Navigating Our Transition into the Coming Low Energy Future.

    Dissipation: Seneca Stoicism and the End of Growth

    Lost in Transition: Ancient Greek Stoicism and the Coming Energy Descent

    Our Return to Nature: Applying Ancient Greek Stoicism to Our Low Energy Transition

    From Complexity to Simplicity: Applying Ancient Greek Stoic Philosophy to the Coming De-Growth Descent

    Embracing the Future: Applied Stoicism and Our Low Energy Future

    A Stoic's View of Energy Descent: Navigating the Inevitable

    1. I can't see any replies that grab me Ugo and I don't as yet have a suggestion but I will relate my experience. With my first book we tried for six months, then in an off handed chat with a woman I mentioned we didn't have a title. She suggested one and bingo, the light went on. We all agreed it was perfect. Recently we were working on another book with no luck. I tried asking on my web site and Facebook. Then one day with my wife and editor who were grilling me about personal relationships I happened to say "yes but being tough isn't enough." Instantly we all agreed that Tough is Not Enough would be the title of my paddle to COP21 from Canberra, Australia. What I am saying is that it will come to you and it will come unexpectedly and when it does you will know it. BTW my first book was about paddling and dragging a kayak through central Australia and the title was Cry Me a River. I think look way outside the direction you are thinking. Look to other words.

    2. Great title "Tough is Not Enough" -- and, yes, despite all our AI, creativity is still a serendipitous, slow, and sometimes painful process. With one of my first books, with the editors we had been mulling over titles for months, then, over the phone, a friend of mine just dropped something like "Well, how about 'emptying the earth?" And that was it, "La Terra Svuotata" in Italian. It was a reasonable success for the Italian market. I think much better than the title that my American editor wanted for a similar book "Extracted" -- sounds like a treatise of dentistry!

  22. Plenty of interesting suggestions -- thanks everyone! I am sure I'm going to get more!

  23. Controlled devolution: cushioning a Seneca Collapse.

  24. the tottering tower of complexity: why tall stuff falls down really really rapidly even though it took quite a long time to build it. for dummies

  25. Collapse is taken emotionally as a negative, no doubt you wish to project a realistic roadmap for tomorrow's challenges through what will be for most a negative experience. The issue is which terminology will most accurately lead your readers, "negative" reality or "positive" direction through extremis. It is rather like that line in Christian funerals, "in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection". If your readers understand the imminent reality you must play Moses and lead them out of the wilderness.

  26. Here is another idea based on the original title, since out of all the mentioned alternatives, it is still the best by far:

    Collapse: The Seneca Strategy, An Approach to Stoicism in Times of Change


    Collapse: The Seneca Strategy, A Stoic Approach to Times of Change

    The original title is already pretty accurate, hence there isn't really any need to alter it in any way, just to maybe expand on it a little bit in order to include some more commonly known (and therefore more marketable) terms like in the examples given above.

    Thanks for reading, all the best to (nearly) everyone out there!!

  27. I´ve seen plenty of new and disparate title suggestions which appear not to respect the provided guidelines at all. So I´m sending a second proposal for the title.

    "How not to collapse in our slow-motion Civilization collapse
    (Apocryphal notes about collapse from Cassandra, revised by Seneca)"

  28. The new rising collapse.

  29. The title doesn't really matter. Bookshops are stuffed with remaindered books with 'attention-grabbing' titles that failed abysmally as far as garnering sales. One of my favourite's: 'The Sultan's Organ'.

    What you really need is a quote like 'A must-read!' in a bubble on the front, from Jared Diamond or David Attenborough.

  30. Downfall: How to surf the wave of societal collapse

  31. Inspiration regm: smth with "méta or morphose" like "Seneca and the comming collapsomorphe"

  32. Not enough to get there.
    Not enough to get back.

  33. I suggest moving underground...oh already did that!

    For fans of Ugo interested in more of his latest thoughts on Collapse ongoing around the globe, we'll have an interview with the famous Professor on the Collapse Cafe ( next Sunday, June 16th.

    This week, we discuss Brexit, EU issues, Trade Wars, the Sudan Crisis and other topics on the RE & Monsta Mash show.


  34. Hi Ugo, my few cents...

    The Seneca compass: tracing the route through unintended consequences.

    A scene for Seneca: perspectives on how will be when things starts toppling.
    'Seneca' appears twice in the title ;)

    Enoughing it: a glance at the future in Seneca's shoes.


  35. Debilitating Overshoot: Ramifications of Seneca's Forgotten Insights Explained.

  36. The Seneca Reset

    Collapse, Stoicism, Revival

  37. What about "Navigating collapsing systems - The Seneca Strategy"

  38. Ugo
    Glad on your behalf to see the interest.
    I see 'redux' had a revival of use this century especially perhaps in America.
    Would nice to see a bit of Latin - Roman civilisation and all that.
    Seneca Redux - Quo Vadis Globalisation.

    Good fun this.

    Book could be very timely.

  39. Ugo, I think if you pose collapse as a question, "bla bla bla Collapse?", rather than a statement or certainty your publisher & potential readers would be less hesitant.

    I learned this communication trick (frame it as a question) way back in the 1980's from a book, I forget the title of.

    Never tell people what they should or need to do like, "you need to lose weight" rather ask them, 'have you ever considered going on a diet?'.

    It's very simple, but effective. I've found almost no one gets offended or defensive when you frame with a question.

    Humans are strange people.

  40. The Seneca Cliff
    No Easy Way Down

    "but when you get to the End
    and you start to descend
    You will find there's no easy way down"

    Carole King -see youtube for Dusty Springfield's wonderful version.
    Mick N

  41. Ugo
    Some STOP PRESS news - re 'extraction' subject of your previous book. The Natural History Museum in London is attempting to do some serious button-counting, which I am very glad to see. De-carbonising UK? The gaps between aspiration and reality are mindboggling:

  42. Juan Pablo GarcíaJune 15, 2019 at 9:12 AM

    Humans done
    Stoic tactics to squeeze last life pulses from an exhausted planet.

    Too bright to survive
    Personal tactics to adapt to collective collapse now that the end has really started.

  43. I like your table of contents. I think these are very rational and far-seeing topics. To try to put a title on the brighter side, I like the words "Salvage" and the concept of "Restoring life systems support", a bit like the recovery of the Astronauts on the Apollo 13 mission.
    The craft's onboard explosion, in its finite space, like exponential human population and economic growth, has nearly wiped out our life-spaceships long-term biosphere life support and stability. For salvage and life survival, all activities need now be devoted to the fundamentals of life systems support, and cut a back of energy and resource waste. Failure to manually cut back, leads to total system failure and death of the human beings.

  44. How about framing it as a self help book title?
    "Fail fast with the stoics!"
    "How to destroy the world economy in five easy steps!"

    Also, I like the phrase "Road To Ruin". Maybe you can use that somehow?
    "Road to rapid ruin"

  45. Dear Ugo,
    how do you feel with the titel:
    "Riding the Seneca Cliff - Strategies for Adaptation"
    I'm curious about it!
    Thomas H

    1. One of the good ones. We are finalizing the choice with the editors. It will be none of the suggestions seen here, but inspired by some of them

  46. Belated, of course.

    My thought is that 'Collapse' is both apt, understandable and comes with its own market. The downside is the usual... you'll only ever be preaching to the choir.

    Though Seneca is less well known, his 'effect' is echoed by such phrases as "years in the making; moments in the breaking". Plus he's your 'brand' as it were. So I'd not only stick with it, but trumpet it.

    And alliteration never hurts...

    Considering Collapse:
    Contemplating Collapse:
    Confronting Collapse:
    Coming to Terms with Collapse:
    Coping with Collapse: The Seneca Effect and Strategy

    Maybe '...Counter-Strategy'?

    Dave Z



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)