When I was studying control theory at the USAF Academy (it was my focus as part of an Astronautical Engineering degree -- yes, you could say I am a rocket scientist ;-> to the extent that means anything), we learned the difference between dynamically stable and unstable systems. Dynamically stable systems are, by design, built with intrinsic dampening forces that return them to a steady state. For example, aircraft of the classic design like to fly. You actually have to work hard to get them to do something uncontrollable.However, this stability costs you a measure of performance. To increase performance you have to ADD instability to the system's design. This means that a high performance aircraft with a large percentage of instability built into its design occasionally wants to careen into oblivion -- the feedback from the system's interaction with the environment can create uncontrollable loops that tend towards infinity (which of course means catastrophic failure). To compensate for this, dynamically unstable systems have computer augmented control systems that dampen these feedback loops. For example, a plane of this type of design has computers (with double back-up) that constantly compensate for instability by moving control surfaces (at a much faster rate than the pilot can). Without compensation, a plane like the F-16 will go catastrophic in 3 seconds. With some of the forward swept wing designs, the time to instability is measured in fractions of seconds.
If we look at today's global environment we see a relatively high performance system driven by real-time global markets and rapid technological progress. Its performance explains why it is spreading so quickly. However, it is also moderately unstable. In our drive towards higher levels of performance we pursued a path of rampant global interconnectivity that has quickly outpaced our ability to dampen excess. The old dampening functions of borders, distance, government, etc are quickly fading. The result is a system vulnerable to rogue feedback. Even a small amount of it can cause global reverberations. Worse, there are people actively working on ways to introduce this rogue feedback. Iraq is a great demonstration of our inability to dampen excess in the face of active opposition (notice how our goals have drifted from building an allied democracy to stopping civil war).
The long-term solution is to build more stability into the system. The best approach I can think of is a highly interconnected but fundamentally decentralized system (most of the benefits of interconnectivity but with lots of local control). Unfortunately, we are far from realizing that goal, since our current view of the world is based on old models.
For example, instead of building resilience into the system, we have embarked on a path of introducing more rogue feedback into the system (the invasion of Iraq seen as a "big bang" in the Middle East). This is based on the belief that Fukuyama's "End of History," where we all live in capitalist democracies, is inexorable. It's not. There isn't any guarantee that our current system is the inevitable result of history and that all dampening forces are driving us to this result. Also, the system isn't tolerant of these shocks as it used to be. As a result of this misunderstanding, the more likely short term outcome is more chaos (we are seeing the start of that right now). As the instability continues, we will continue to see small attacks, like the one on the Askariya shrine and the facility at Abqaiq put entire sections of the system on the brink. Over the longer term, the system will continue on its unpredictable path with ever more numerous bouts of excess until the weight of numerous fundamental changes to the system's design and operation are made that dampen this chaos. Where we end up, at the end of this process, may be with dynamically stable system that is far from the current political and economic status quo. You might not recognize what you see.This conclusion also calls into question the efficacy of the idea that merely increasing connectivity is an answer to our problems. Increasing connectivity too fast, in a system without intrinsic dampening or control systems that work, will only accelerate the chaos (human nature doesn't change as fast as technology). If you need proof of that, spend some time reading Jihadi Web sites and pondering the rapid growth of transnational crime. Also, the complexity of this system puts the lie to the idea that we know how to actively dampen its behavior through centralized systems of control. We neither have the scale nor the collective intelligence to pull it off. The only real solution rests on redesigning the system itself, to enable it to become more tolerant of rogue feedback.