How The Seeds Of Revolution Take Root

That the dramatic upheavals of war, pestilence and environmental collapse can trigger social disorder and revolution is well-established. Indeed, this dynamic can be viewed as the standard model of social disorder/revolution: a large-scale crisis—often a bolt-from-the-blue externality—upends the status quo.

Another model identifies warring elites and imperial meddling as a source of revolution: a new elite forcibly replaces the current elite (known colloquially as meet the new boss, same as the old boss) or a dominant nation-state/empire arranges a political coup to replace the current leadership with a more compliant elite.

A third model was described by David Hackett Fischer in The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History. By assembling price and wage data stretching back hundreds of years, Fischer found that cycles of economic growth spawn population growth, resulting in more workers entering the market economy. Their earnings trigger a demand-driven expansion of essential commodities such as grain and energy (wood, coal, oil, etc.).

In the initial phase, wages rise and commodity prices remain stable as supplies of essential goods expand and the demand for labor pushes up wages.

But this virtuous cycle reverses when the supply of essentials no longer keeps pace with rising population and demand: the price of essentials begin an inexorable rise even as an oversupply of labor drives down wages.

Fisher found that this wage/price cycle often ends in transformational social upheaval.

While proponents of these models have a wealth of historical examples to draw upon, these models miss a key factor:  the vulnerability or resilience of the nation-state facing crises.

Some nations survive invasions, environmental catastrophes, epidemics and inflation without disintegrating into disorder. Something about these nation’s social/ economic /political order makes them more resilient than other nations.

So rather than accept the proximate causes of disorder as the sole factors, we should look deeper into the social order for the factors behind a nation’s relative fragility or resilience.

The Decline Of Shared Purpose

Historian Peter Turchin defined a key factor in the resilience of the social order as "the degree of solidarity felt between the commons and aristocracy," that is, the sense of purpose and identity shared by the aristocracy and commoners alike.

As Turchin explains in War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires:

"Unlike the selfish elites of the later periods, the aristocracy of the early Republic did not spare its blood or treasure in the service of the common interest. When 50,000 Romans, a staggering one fifth of Rome’s total manpower, perished in the battle of Cannae, the senate lost almost one third of its membership. This suggests that the senatorial aristocracy was more likely to be killed in wars than the average citizen….

The wealthy classes were also the first to volunteer extra taxes when they were needed… A graduated scale was used in which the senators paid the most, followed by the knights, and then other citizens. In addition, officers and centurions (but not common soldiers!) served without pay, saving the state 20 percent of the legion’s payroll….

The richest 1 percent of the Romans during the early Republic was only 10 to 20 times as wealthy as an average Roman citizen.

Roman historians of the later age stressed the modest way of life, even poverty of the leading citizens. For example, when Cincinnatus was summoned to be dictator, while working at the plow, he reportedly exclaimed, 'My land will not be sown this year and so we shall run the risk of not having enough to eat!'"

Once the aristocracy’s ethic of public unity and service was replaced by personal greed and pursuit of self-interest, the empire lost its social resilience.

Turchin also identified rising wealth inequality as a factor in weakening social solidarity. By the end-days of the Western Roman Empire, elites held not 10 times as much wealth commoners but 10,000 times as much as average citizens.

Wealth inequality is both a cause and a symptom: it is a cause of weakening social resilience, but it also symptomatic of a system that enables the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few at the expense of the many.

Diminishing Returns On Complexity & Expansion

Thomas Homer-Dixon’s excellent book The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization  outlines two systemic sources of increasing fragility: diminishing returns on complexity and the rising costs of continuing strategies that worked well in the past but no longer yield positive results.

Successful economies generate surpluses that are skimmed by various elites to support new layers of complexity: temple priests, state bureaucracies, standing armies, etc.

All this complexity adds cost but beyond the initial positive impact of rationalizing production, it reduces productivity by draining potentially productive investments from the economy.

Building temple complexes and vast palaces for the aristocracy appears affordable in the initial surge of productivity, but as investment in productivity declines and the population of state dependents expands, surpluses shrink while costs rise.

Meanwhile, strategies that boosted yields in the beginning also suffer diminishing returns. Conquering nearby lands and extracting their wealth paid off handsomely at first, but as the distance to newly conquered territories lengthen, the payoff declines: supplying distant armies to maintain control over distant lands costs more, while the yield on marginal new conquests drops.

Expanding land under production was easy in the river valley, but once water has to be carried up hillsides, the net yield plummets.

What worked well at first no longer works well, but those in charge are wedded to the existing system; why change what has worked so brilliantly?

As the costs of complexity and state dependents rise, productive people grow tired of supporting an economy suffering from terminal diminishing returns.

Empires do not just suddenly collapse; they are abandoned by the productive citizenry as the burdens become unbearable. The independent class of tradespeople (a.k.a. the middle class), driven into serfdom by taxes, lose their shared identity with the aristocracy. Beneath the surface, social cohesion frays. Once the benefits of the status quo no longer outweigh its costs, the system is vulnerable to an external disruption that would have been easily handled in previous eras.

The Suppression Of Social Mobility

There is another key factor in the resilience or fragility of social order: the permeability of the barrier between the ruling class and everyone below. We call this permeability social mobility: how easy is it for a working class family to rise up to the middle class, and how easy is it for a middle class family to enter the political and financial aristocracy?

I recently read Venice: A New History, a fascinating account of Venice's rise to regional empire and its decline to tourist destination.

What struck me most powerfully was Venice's long success as a republic: it was the world's only republic for roughly 1,000 years.

How did the Venetians manage this?  Their system of participatory democracy accreted over time, and was by no means perfect; only men of substance had much of a say. But strikingly, key political turning points were often triggered by mass gatherings of craftsmen and laborers.

Most importantly, the system was carefully designed to enable new blood to enter the higher levels of power. Commoners could rise to power (and take their families with them if their wealth outlasted the founding generation) via commercial success or military service.

The Republic also developed a culture that frowned on personal glorification and cults of personality: the nobility and commoners alike deferred to the Republic rather than any one leader.

In Venice, the political leadership (the doge and the Council) were elected via a convoluted series of steps that made it essentially impossible for one clique to control the entire process.

The doge was elected for a term, not for life, and he had to be acceptable not just to the elites but to the much larger class of movers and shakers--roughly 1,000 people in a city of at most 150,000.

Venice's crises emerged when the upwelling of social and financial mobility was capped by elites who were over-zealous in their pursuit of hegemony: all those blocked from rising to power/influence became the source of political revolt.

If you cap the volcano, eventually the pressure beneath rises to the point that the cap gets blown off in spectacular fashion.

The suppression of social mobility and the monopolization of power by the few at the expense of the many are universal dynamics in social orders.

Broadly speaking, Venice's 1,000-year Republican government, with its complex rules to limit concentrations of power and insure the boundaries between elites and commoners were porous enough to diffuse revolution and social disorder, speak to what is once again in play around the world: social unrest due to the concentration of power and the suppression of social mobility.

I don't think it's a stretch to say that the greater the concentration of power, the lower the social mobility, the greater the odds that the system will collapse when faced with crisis.

When the entire economy is expanding faster than population, and this tide is raising all ships, the majority of people feel their chances of getting ahead are positive.

But when the economy is stagnating, and those in power are amassing most of the gains, the majority realizes their chances of securing a better life are declining. This is the pressure that is being capped by the status quo that first and foremost protects the privileged.

How porous are the barriers to social mobility in our society? That a few people become billionaires from technological innovations that scale globally is not a real measure of social mobility for the masses.

In Part 2 we identify the wellspring of revolution, and reach a conclusion that may surprise many.

Click here to read Part 2 of this report (free executive summary, enrollment required for full access)

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
Strict gun control combined with full-bore socialism are coming to their natural conclusion in Venezuela, yet the world looks away and yawns.

Venezuela is in complete chaos as a result of their economic collapse.

And as a result, state-rationed food and groceries have run out, prices are hyper-inflated and millions of people are waiting in huge lines for any goods that are available. Black markets have gone boom, with neighbors making necessities available to other neighbors, but they must avoid crackdown from a jealous State that is desperate to hang onto power.

The free-fall of oil prices on the global stage has snapped the South American socialist nation into sudden and harsh disaster. Venezuela has slightly more oil than Saudi Arabia, and trades the second largest volume, after OPEC, and was even more vulnerable than Russia to the economic warfare that has taken place in the last few years.

Things are very bad now, and they were already falling apart. Nicolas Maduro took over after Hugo Chavez’ death in 2013, but without the force of Chavez’ cult of personality, he has been unable to hold an already unrealistic economy together any longer – and the people are on the verge of complete revolt.

A politically weak Maduro has apparently now taken to using an iron-fist, with reports and video claim that Maduro has been backing paramilitary death squads to take out dissenters, and these execution gangs have been more or less randomly mowing down anyone they think might be sympathetic to anti-Maduro protests. This was true in the Chavez days, but this form of repression is now much more naked.

With state control of the media in Venezuela, and an unwillingness to report on the part of the international press, it is difficult to know all the facts. Indeed these developments have gone virtually unreported, but some of it has surfaced on YouTube.

The Caracas Chronicles is one of the rare sources to report what is really happening:

What we saw were not “street clashes”, what we saw is a state-hatched offensive to suppress and terrorize its opponents.


Throughout last night, panicked people told their stories of state-sponsored paramilitaries on motorcycles roaming middle class neighborhoods, shooting at people and  storming into apartment buildings, shooting at anyone who seemed like he might be protesting.

People continue to be arrested merely for protesting, and a long established local Human Rights NGO makes an urgent plea for an investigation into widespread reports of torture of detainees. There are now dozens of serious human right abuses: National Guardsmen shooting tear gas canisters directly into residential buildings. We have videos of soldiers shooting civilians on the street.

And that’s just what came out in real time, over Twitter and YouTube, before any real investigation is carried out. Online media is next, a city of 645,000 inhabitants has been taken off the internet amid mounting repression, and this blog itself has been the object of a Facebook “block” campaign.

The crack down on the population of Venezuela is truly massive and very chaotic, as much of the footage shows. Indeed, a coup against Maduro may be underway, but he is not going down without a despicable attack on the people who oppose him.

Go to the site and watch the amateur videos of what's going on.  

Is this how things will go down in the United States in the aftermath of the planned collapse of the economy and the destruction of the American standards of living?

Though Venezuela seems world’s apart from the events in the United States, this same level of unrest can grow quickly along the lines of division that have been sharpening under President Obama’s two terms and the false “recovery” imposed by bankers intent on bringing everyone to their knees.

For now, the biggest difference is that Americans still have their guns, and the militia are still of, by and for the people.

Stay prepared, and stay vigilant!

"Welcome to the Hunger Games. And may the odds be ever in your favor."

This appears to be a case where the alternative media is the only media on the ground, doing actual reporting.Global MSM is worthless. One of my correspondents in Venezuela reports his monthly paycheck is $14 USD at street exchange rates.

Excellent article Charles.
I cannot seem to take off my energy spectacles.  These passages stands out:

Meanwhile, strategies that boosted yields in the beginning also suffer diminishing returns. Conquering nearby lands and extracting their wealth paid off handsomely at first, but as the distance to newly conquered territories lengthen, the payoff declines: supplying distant armies to maintain control over distant lands costs more, while the yield on marginal new conquests drops.

Expanding land under production was easy in the river valley, but once water has to be carried up hillsides, the net yield plummets.

What worked well at first no longer works well, but those in charge are wedded to the existing system; why change what has worked so brilliantly?

How are these practices and outcomes any different that what will result from drilling a 3 mile bore hole to extract a few hundred thousand barrels of oil?

Or pressure washing tarry sand for whatever dregs of bitumen can be released?

The payoffs are declining and yet those in power see nothing wrong with just doing more of the same even if it happens to be harder.

This week we saw the usual cheering from the "we're exceptional" crowd because the US is now exporting natural gas from the Sabine terminal in LA.  Yay.

No thought given to the loss of energy involved in creating a liquid fro a gas, a uniquely wasteful practice.  Or to the fact that several of the top shale gas field are already in decline indicating to all but the most blinkered that even that last resource has its limits.

So we conquer on oblivious to the embedded instability in the model, wonderfully blind to the lessons of history.

A while back Tom posted a metaphor for when revolutions are ready to happen.  (Paraphrasing)

When you are really mad, grab your pitchfork and go out on the front porch.  Stop and look up and down the street.  If others are on the porch with pitchforks then the time is right.  If not, go back inside.  You are too early.
So there is both personal readiness and group readiness.

Information Flow

Much has been written about the consolidation of media ownership in the hands of a few oligopolies.  For example, Project Censored outlines their take on the grip that the Global Dominance Group has on the media in Truth Emergency:  Inside the Military Industrial Media Empire.

If we cannot even know whether Russian did or did not invade the Ukraine or whether the US did or did not use Sarin gas in Laos, how are we to form coherent social movements?

This Frugal Dad graphic is several years out of date and some specifics have changed.  The trend is clear.

When a single group controls information flow there is the potential for that group to coordinate to herd the populous into desired beliefs.

This is particularly acute when people believe that only the MSM is "reliable."

2 years ago at Rowe, Chris mentioned the "perplexing" emergence across MULTIPLE MEDIA PLATFORMS of the myth of "US energy independence."   How does this work?

When a single group controls information flow there is the potential for that group to coordinate to herd the populous into desired beliefs.
We saw this same studied, deliberate, organized media ignorance in the shale space.  Some simple math showed Chris, and then me, that shale simply wasn't profitable, yet all the while Wall Street was earning fees selling shale drilling company bonds and equity to their patsy customers.  At the same time, Bloomberg (among others) was ignoring the facts and instead proclaiming a shale miracle.

If the media was filled with truth-tellers like Matt Taibbi, this ridiculous shale story would have come out years ago.  There would be no place for Peak Prosperity or any of us.  We'd just be members of the choir, cheering on our hard-working journalists who were intrepidly looking for the Deep Throat interviews that would expose the sordid truth.

But that's not where we are, is it?  Our last, remaining hope is "Obi Wan" over at Rolling Stone and (the now retired Jon Stewart at) Comedy Central, and some huge percentage of the nation wants to vote for Donald Trump (!) because his sole selling point is that he is not bought and paid for.

We are so tired of the web of lies being spun that some large chunk of America is willing to vote for Donald Trump because he manages to accidentally embody a few, random crumbs of truth and authenticity, and in so doing reveals the incredible tool-like similarity of every other candidate in the field.  Hillary Clinton getting $600k from Goldman Sachs makes me so angry I could just spit … and the rest of the Republican tools are just wind-up toys programmed to spout well-rehearsed trigger lines while taking money from the gang in charge.

We know in our hearts they are all weasels.  And now, a feckless, self-important, narcissistic non-bought-and-paid-for weasel appears, he is suddenly interesting just by contrast.  The thirst for authenticity - even a sociopathic authenticity - among people is just that strong.

Its just a marker, a waypoint along our journey.  To where, I dunno.  Walls along the Mexican border.  TRUMP in capital letters above the white house, I suppose.  Who will take over for him once the Deep State has him shot?  That's my question.

This particular cycle is taking its sweet time to shift.  All I can do is set my intent for what I want to happen, and enjoy my life in the meantime.

Here is a question, a dark question that occurs to me as I write:

As the traders are wont to say, "gun to your head, would you vote for Trump or Total Tool Hillary?"  You have to pick one or the other.  Me?  I really don't want to answer, even with figurative a gun to my head.  I'd feel like I was advocating a vote for Hitler.  I'd pick Trump.  God help me.  A vote for Hillary is a vote for Goldman Sachs.  And I'll go to my grave before voting for Goldman Sachs one more time.

How would you vote?  Rhetorical question.  No need to answer.  And sorry to turn this into politics.

Perhaps that's how it happened in Germany in 1933.  People were just so tired of voting for the German equivalent of Goldman Sachs.

I wonder if Trump has written about His Struggle yet.

I really hope we can change this arc of history somehow and obtain a better outcome.

Gosh, that got more negative than usual.  I guess it was just me thinking about President Trump.

I reserve my greatest wrath and disappointment for "we the people" for not paying more attention and causing the change we need than all the sock puppets you mentioned Dave.  Maybe if Ron Paul were 15 years younger and running AGAIN this time he would be leading the race.  He has as pure and consistent a record as you could hope for in an actual human being, but he never had the teevee presence "we the people" seem to demand before anything else.  But I sense "we the people's" mood has changed massively since 2008 and 2012. Whatever. We're being carried downstream toward our nasty fate whether we see it coming or not, whether we like it or not, whether we're ready or not.
We can all see that the mainstream media is dying a well-deserved, agonizing death. Just for fun I've been trying to imagine it's ideal replacement. If I were a media mogul, I'd eliminate nearly all my full time reporters but keep a bevy of editors and fact-checkers. Then I'd announce to the world that I'll be buying material from freelancers around the world, fact checking it, editing it for style and publishing it in two electronic formats. I would give away for free what might otherwise be called "executive summaries."  These short, free pieces would contain the basic content of the stories but without a lot of detail. Then I would offer for sale (by the piece or a full subscription for all articles) the much more in depth articles that the executive summary was based on.  So somebody writes a 10,000 word piece on the "shale miracle" which I asked her for and I have my employees check the facts and edit it.  Then I divide it up into a 500-1,000 word summary offered free and the whole 10,000 word original that I charge for.  The writer is paid a percentage of the fees that come in.  In the next few days other writers, one of whom is Chris Martenson, who read the complete article submit equally detailed articles debunking the whole thing. My people fact check and edit, and I print one or more of them.  These writer's are also paid a percentage.  I have the world's writers and researchers at my fingertips and need only pick the best and most relevant for publication. And whenever I stumble upon hot debates on certain topics I can focus on those and not feel constrained to only print the official viewpoint.  Eventually me and my readers will learn which of my freelancers reliably have the best stuff and I'll give preference to them (as will the readers). Of course when I buy something I copyright it so it can't be used elsewhere. Eventually I'd have some favorites and would give them cash advances to cover a story I think is important but no one has submitted articles on.  For instance I might give a $20,000 advance to an up and coming writer with Venezuelan citizenship to go back down there and find out what the heck is going on (and then pay for the article if it met my standards). Shoot, I might send two people there with polar opposite views on socialism and the Venezuelan government and see what they come up with independently of each other (and print BOTH articles). I think of it as a merger of The New York Times and The Drudge Report. Oh well. I can dream, can't I?


Hi Sand_puppy! Good post. With regard to this sentence:

When a single group controls information flow there is the potential for that group to coordinate to herd the populous into desired beliefs.
If you have not already done so I suggest reading the article I submitted in today's daily digest titled "The New Mind Control". This was something a friend forwarded to me and I thought it worthy of wider exposure.

It would seem that the MSM is just one small part of the overall effort to subvert us in order to to coordinate the herd. The article is truly scary when one considers the deep and far reaching implications. We as a society have made grave errors in our rush to create advanced technologies, neglecting to put in place checks and balances as we move along to avoid the kind of scenario the article describes. The fact that the majority of the herd is oblivious to the manipulations, regularly displaying a lack of care, concern or curiosity to even question what is going on gives me little hope for the future. Most are mallable consumerist zombies who the manipulators see as easy prey. They have been wildly successful given that the herd really needed to be on the porch with pitchforks eons ago.

If helicopter money is dropped, and I think it will be, the pitchforks will likely stay in the closet for awhile yet. The manipulators have become extremely adept at pacifying the herd, directing behaviours through unseen magic wands. Legalities and ethics are not worthy of consideration - if they ever were. And this article underscores the fact that technological applications are far outpacing our ability to govern their use. The pace of change has become ungovernable, putting the herd at its mercy.

Free money will be another manipulation that will only serve to kick the can a little further down the road. I am confident the herd will respond accordingly and do their techno-masters proud, delaying the inevitable day of reckoning while continuing on the path to mindless instant gratification and living vicariously through reality TV. The only revolution we will ever see is if these things get cut off. Now that will truly be the mother of all revolutions!


And thanks for the pointer to the article you submitted in the DD.

I notice that the IRS is shaking down a record percentage of the general laborers around me, for a few thousand dollars at a time.
Anyone else notice that?

Michael, it's probably related to stronger models in identifying tax return fraud if I were to take a guess. Turbo tax is nice because they give you relative probability score as to how your tax return will be interpreted by the IRS. 

Yup, Jan, this is an excellent article.  I sure needed to know about it!  I don't use Google anymore but that doesn't change the situation much.  Yet another hazard to account for…


 First off, thanks for all you contribute to this site, I really appreciate the effort you put forth and the insights you share!

 My wife and I had this very same conversation today about Trump vs. Hilary. I told her I refuse to vote for Hilary because we know we would get a hosin' from her based on her "complete sellout" record. But as much as I would have to hold my nose to vote for Trump, (gun to my head scenario) he has TPTB sweating bullets, the MSM fit to tied and he just might shake up the status quo enough to make some difference, if they don't shoot him first. As Chris says "May You Live in Interesting Times".      

This is why it's important to support alt. media sites like Peak Prosperity.  There's a site that enables free-lancers to solicit support from individuals for a specific journalistic project. Via Beacon, I gave Mason Inman $50 towards his efforts to sort thru the mind-numbing details of actual shale production. (Hmm, might be time for me to re-up my support…)
We have the power to encourage and grow a vibrant alt. media. Sadly, most people can't be bothered to fund an alt. media, even for a few bucks…

I am thinking that dysfunction always looks safer than change until the well runs dry.

As the old Chinese saying has it: "when you're thirsty, it's too late to dig a well."

I guess we're not thirsty yet.

In my own case, it is a reinterpretation of religious freedom to be not important. Specifically, I will not get my kids SSNs for religious reasons. There were some things they would honor (exemptions), some they wouldn’t (EIC).
That changed: they are now trying to extract maximum tax possible. Their justification is “because we can”. It is no longer about paying a just amount of tax, or a fair amount of tax (though that is still named in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights).
In other cases, it also seems not to be a case of fraud, but just a case of “we’re forcing this because we can”.
So that’s why I ask: do others see this happening, the lower working classes getting squeezed hard, hard enough that in some cases they lose their apartments, their jobs?
You see how this might apply to the topic at hand, I expect.


You have accurately captured the dilemma most thinking people are struggling with regarding the upcoming election.  Do I vote for the corporate whore or the looney tune bully who happens to espouse a few correct positions?  What an incredible position we find ourselves in.  It gives me goosebumps every time I hear, "Make America Great Again".  For some reason my brain processes that statement as, "Make Deutcheland Great Again".

Twitter’s "Trust and Safety Council": Orwellian, or just a really bad idea? (Hot Air)
There is an Orwellian thing going on over at Twitter. Oh, it's censorship, but only of one view point.

I first became aware of this when I was shown that a controversial conservative on Twitter–where I rarely venture–openly gay Breirbart Tech journalist Milo Yiannopoulos lost his "Verified" blue check mark, something Twitter hands out to avoid copycat or spoof sites: a mark that this is really  "that " person. The verify checkmark was withdrawn without a specific problem being stated. This was followed by "shadow banning" - a tool used on internet trolls to let them think they are being read, but they really are not. People who followed  Milo were suddenly not seeing his tweets. His handle and name no longer auto-complete in Twitter's search bar. Now I understand random tweets from his timeline are disappearing altogether. I am not one of his followers, by the way, but he's @nero on Twitter.

The article on Hot Air, linked above, does not mention this but mentions conservatives Stacy McCain and Adam Baldwin. It concludes:

As I told Adam this morning, I have enjoyed Twitter in the past, but enjoy it less and less these days. That’s not because of the trolls; it’s because of the very real sense that Twitter doesn’t value free speech or the participation of my friends and colleagues, and that we’re only tolerated for as long as we don’t cross their orthodoxy in any significant manner. What makes this so absurd is that Twitter is about the least substantial communication platform in popular use, thanks to its 140-character limit. Dorsey and the TSC treat it as a medium of such importance that competing views outside their comfort zone must be somehow suppressed, while ignoring the fact that Twitter only really matters as a fun and quick way to engage people without the very barriers they are erecting.

The best solution for bad speech is more speech, not the Speech Police or a “Trust and Safety Council.” Free speech isn’t supposed to be “safe” — it’s supposed to be free, a marketplace of ideas in which consumers can judge the speech and the speakers for themselves. Twitter is a private enterprise that can set its own rules, but that doesn’t make them good ideas. Time to toss the “Trust and Safety Council” and its Orwellian undertones for a level playing field.

Free speech is especially about controversial, even outrageous speech.

Charles, I had never heard of before and it certainly looks like a great resource! Thank you for sharing. I looked up some of Mason Inman's work trying to see what he has been working on, and he has some interesting charts and ideas. The charts from his first article showing US natural gas production were great to see.
I personally find myself always looking for new data research projects for fun, so if you have any ideas, please let me know. 

…I hope you didn't lose you family or real people in order to follow in a cultist foot steps, Chris's. You must live each day with LOVE in your heart and the path you are now on is one where you will NOT be rational and you will misunderstand the moment and I fear take an unnecessary life. To do this is to end your own, forever. My God Man, you have got to get help.

Wow, Jan.  That was quite a story about the power of the search engine algorithm writers to influence thinking simply by ranking stories.
Eli Pariser has a TED talk describing the effects of personalizing the ranking of web data to individuals.

A couple of highlights:

So Facebook isn't the only place that's doing this kind of invisible, algorithmic editing of the Web. Google's doing it too. If I search for something, and you search for something, even right now at the very same time, we may get very different search results. ... there are 57 signals that Google looks at -- everything from what kind of computer you're on to what kind of browser you're using to where you're located -- that it uses to personally tailor your query results.... 
He describes 2 friends Googling "Egypt."  One, known (to to Google) be interested in politics, gets hits on the political protests going on there, while the other, a world traveler, gets hits for sightseeing destinations in Egypt with no mention of the political upheaval.