U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Date of this Version



Global Environmental Change 21 (2011) 77–84; doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2010.11.002


In an effort to evaluate socio-political instability, we studied the relationship between dynamic order, socio-political upheavals and sustainability in nation states. Estimating the degree of dynamic order inherent in the socio-political regime of various countries throughout the world involved applying Fisher information theory to data from the Political Instability Task Force database. Fisher information is a key method in information theory and affords the ability to characterize the structure and dynamics of complex systems. The results of this work demonstrate that nation states bifurcate into two distinct regimes, which exhibit a negative correlation between dynamic order, as determined by Fisher information, and the prevalence of upheavals. Countries in the High Incidence of Upheavals regime with low dynamic order (i.e., low Fisher information) experienced sixteen times more upheavals than the countries in the Low Incidence of Upheavals regime with high dynamic order (i.e. high Fisher information). Most importantly, our analysis demonstrates that newly industrializing countries suffer from the most instability, which is manifested in low dynamic order thereby resulting in a high number of upheavals. These results suggest that developing countries endure a period of socio-political instability on their path to the developed world.