What is the Optimum Complexity of a Population?
Human populations tend to fragment to optimize local control. However, fragmentation can result in weakness and increased risk of domination by a larger group (consider Ukraine vs. Russia, or North vs. South in US). There has been a lot of talk, but essentially no quantitative analysis of these issues. Modern network analysis software may be able to provide useful insight. I am 77 and not familiar with the software. Some more knowledgeable individuals, or groups, need to investigate the possibilities existing software, or possible extensions, have to clarify conflict analyses and reduce the currently overwhelming level of political and economic noise especially from the US Congress.
Trying to isolate Russia and China is not possible. Russia has almost as much fossil fuel reserves as the US and is a major supplier to Europe. China is a major player in the global consumer economy. The west needs to get smart and realize that it cannot maintain a global economy without Russia and China. I suspect any reasonable, quantitative analysis of the global economy will verify this. Let the analytical folks do their work before stating that old ideas are still valid. Competition never ends and new ideas do change things. International trade and fossil fuel resources will determine most of what happens if we can avoid a major war which might make any reasonable human future unlikely. Many recent movies suggest such an outcome would be desirable, but few would survive under very primitive circumstances.
I suspect that production plus imports minus exports for energy and food for each country in the network will be critical. Trade figures should include most other inputs and outputs and will be essential to create a dynamic network model. Energy efficiency (1/energy intensity) of GDP generation equals GDP/(energy used including food). In developed countries, food is less than 10% of total energy used, but can be over 80% in poor countries food_energy.htm. Population estimates (including births, deaths, and migrations) will be critical for estimating food consumption and for maintaining a reasonable GDP per capita and social stability. Thus, the CIA, EIA, UN, and World Trade organizations will need to provide data. Such a network model is probably our best hope for reducing the current level of political and economic noise. It is too early to estimate if such a model can really address the questions of optimization and stability in an international context. It is clear that such models have been useful in networks including recent studies of the human brain.