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VII. Our Earthuman Moment: A Major Evolutionary Transition in Individuality

2. Complex Local to Global Network Biosocieties

Sawyer, R. Keith. Social Emergence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. A Washington University psychologist articulates a novel conceptual basis by which to appreciate societies as complex dynamic systems. This is a “third wave” of social science after Talcott Parsons’ structural functionalism and general systems theory. In this regard, a thorough survey of the course of sociology from Comte to Durkheim to the present day, along with how social orders emerge from individual interactive agents. In the final chapter an “Emergence Paradigm” is proposed to synthesize and transcend the Structure and Interaction schools. One of the best works on the active presence of universal complex adaptive systems in human societies.

Schaller, Mark, et al, eds. Evolution and Social Psychology. New York: Psychology Press, 2006. Ranging broadly, the essay seek to broach and reconceive human cognitive, behavioral and cultural mores within an evolutionary setting.

Schlapfer, Markus, et al. The Universal Visitation Law of Human Mobility. Nature. 593/522, 2021. Nine Senseable City Lab, MIT researchers along with Geoffrey West, SFI are able to distill the presence of common mathematics that underlie people on the go. Once again, an occasion is found whence our daily lives, as yet unawares, hold to and trace well-trod paths. As the case for epidemics, it is said that if these patterns can be known and respectfully availed, then much better societies could become possible.

Human mobility impacts many aspects of a city from its spatial structure to its response to an epidemic, social interactions, innovations and productivity. However, our quantitative understanding of individual and aggregate movements remains incomplete. Here we cite a simple, robust scaling law that captures the temporal and spatial basis of large-scale mobility data from diverse cities around the globe. Accordingly, the number of visitors to any location decreases as the inverse square of their frequency and travel distance. We show that the spatial-temporal flows to different locations give rise to distinct clusters that follow Zipf’s law. (Abstract excerpt)

Schweitzer, Frank. Sociophysics. Physics Today. February, 2018. The ETH Zurich professor of systems design with doctorates in physics and philosophy has been a pioneer complexity theorist since the 1990s. This popular essay reports latest achievements to interpret our economic and societal domain as an emergent continuance from a physical and mathematical source. It opens with a history of this endeavor since David Hume and Auguste Comte in the 18th and 19th century, which then continued through the 20th century and into our worldwide 21st century. Circa 2018, a mature quantification is possible by way of computational methods and complex dynamic network topologies. As a result, human persons in societies can be appreciated as an extension and expression of natural, universally generative patterns.

Smaldino, Paul. The Cultural Evolution of Emergent Group-Level Traits. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 37/243, 2014. A Johns Hopkins University psychobiologist contends that viable social groupings can be rightly seen to possess organism-like features of their own. Properly perceived, these findings would support animal and human assemblies as a further evolutionary stage. In a commentary, Lan Shuai and Tao Gong propose that language also arose via group interactions. David Sloan Wilson adds: I applaud Smaldino for advancing the “groups as organisms” theme. In this commentary, I will argue that his points apply to all multilevel evolutionary processes.

Many of the most important properties of human groups – including properties that may give one group an evolutionary advantage over another – are properly defined only at the level of group organization. Yet at present, most work on the evolution of culture has focused solely on the transmission of individual-level traits. I propose a conceptual extension of the theory of cultural evolution, particularly related to the evolutionary competition between cultural groups. The key concept in this extension is the emergent group-level trait. This type of trait is characterized by the structured organization of differentiated individuals and constitutes a unit of selection that is qualitatively different from selection on groups as defined by traditional multilevel selection (MLS) theory. In this target article, I discuss the emergence and evolution of group-level traits and the implications for the theory of cultural evolution, including ramifications for the evolution of human cooperation, technology, and cultural institutions, and for the equivalency of multilevel selection and inclusive fitness approaches. (Abstract)

Smith, Eliot and Frederica Conrey. Agent-Based Modeling: A New Approach for Theory Building in Social Psychology. Personality and Social Psychology Review. 11/1, 2007. An extensive, tutorial article about a conceptual advance for this academic field via complex systems science. A bit late in this regard, as most other domains are well into this shift. Although carefully done, the endeavor proceeds, as usual, with little imagination that behavioral and societal dynamics could spring from and manifest a deeper, universal source. Again a common, interdisciplinary terminology is in much need.

This article describes an alternative approach to theory building, agent-based modeling (ABM), which involves simulations of large numbers of autonomous agents that interact with each other and with a simulated environment and the observation of emergent patterns from their interactions. (87) The complex adaptive systems approach, like the more recent ABM approach, emphasizes the ways dynamic and nonlinear combinations of simple behaviors can result in the construction of emergent, complex patterns. (90)

Smith, Kenny, et al. Cultural Transmission and the Evolution of Human Behavior. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 363/3467, 2008. An introduction to a topical issue, but with a male authorship the effort proceeds without any “philosophical” guidance that could admit a greater reality or genesis, the very idea eludes. As a result an array of features such as modularity, niche construction, recursive language, gene-culture links, group cognition, and so on struggle to reach a coherent scenario. Notable papers such as Culture, Embodiment and Genes by Michael Wheeler and Andy Clark remain compromised by this tacit lapse. If one might broach, what the well-intentioned researchers are attempting to describe is a worldwide humankind as a nascent planetary person, the next major transition, with its (her/his) own cerebral, linguistic, and cognitive faculty.

Smith, Monica. Territories, Corridors, and Networks: A Biological Model for the Premodern State. Complexity. 12/4, 2007. If this article which finds early human settlements likewise amenable to nonlinear science, might then be joined with other current work by Marcus Hamiliton, Ingo Piepers, Antonio Isalgue, Luis Bettencourt, et al, (please search herein) from hunter-gathers to cities and nations, one might perceive a salutary discovery in our midst by a cerebrally personal humankind.

Ancient human groups also can be analyzed as having perceived and occupied landscapes through strategies of flexible networks in which nodes and corridors were surrounded by unutilized spaces around which boundaries were selectively identified and defended. This strategy is identifiable in human social groups at different levels of complexity ranging from hunter-gatherers through ancient chiefdoms and states.

Spaget, Michael, et al. Toward a Unified Understanding of Casualty Distributions in Human Conflict. arXiv:1911.01994. As many entries across the social and cultural sections lately record an exemplary presence of dynamic networks, scales and forms, here London, Radboud, Michigan State and George Washington University (Neil Johnson) report that even the chaotic carnage of small and large warfare can be seen to exhibit systemic regularities. Such broad, consistent evidence would then necessarily imply a common, independent mathematical source. In 2019 as internecine conflicts spread and intensify like wildfires, might our nascent sapiensphere be at last able to realize and avail such a natural organizational code-program in time?

We are able to resolve various disparate claims and results that stand in the way of a unified description and understanding of human conflict. First, we reconcile the numerically different exponent values for fatalities across entire wars and within single wars. We go on to explain how a true theory of human conflict is able to provide a quantitative explanation of how most observed casualty distributions follow power-laws and why they deviate from them. Combined, our findings strengthen the notion that a unified framework can be used to understand and quantitatively describe human conflict. (Abstract excerpt)

St-Onge, Guiliaume, et al. School Closures, Event Cancellations and the Mesoscopic Localization of Epidemics in Networks with Higher-Order Structure. arXiv:2003.05924. We cite this current posting by Laval University, Quebec theorists including Laurent Hebert-Dufresne among a burst of papers as evidence for the inherent presence of an independent mathematical domain which then manifestly influence the dynamic spreadings.

The COVID-19 epidemic is challenging in many ways, such as failures of the surveillance system. Here, we discuss a higher-order description of epidemic dynamics on networks that provides a natural way of extending interaction models beyond simple pairwise contacts. We show that unlike the classic diffusion standard, higher-order interactions can give rise to a mesoscopic locus where the epidemic concentrates around certain substructures in the network. Unlike standard models of delocalized dynamics, epidemics in a localized phase can suddenly collapse when facing an intervention operating over structures rather than individuals. (Abstract)

Stout, Dietrich and Erin Hecht. Evolutionary Neuroscience of Cumulative Culture. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 114/7861, 2017. An Emory University anthropologist and a Georgia State University behavioral neuroscientist broach views and ways to go beyond standard social studies so as to gain a vital cerebral basis for human artificial cultures.

Sutcliffe, Alistair, et al. Relationships and the Social Brain: Integrating Psychological and Evolutionary Perspectives. British Journal of Psychology. 103/2, 2012. Sutcliffe, University of Manchester, with Robin Dunbar, Oxford, Jens Binder, Trent University, and Holly Arrow, University of Oregon, contribute to the growing articulation of human societies, for these title reasons, as distinguished by nested scales of group members. See also Sutcliffe herein, and Linnda Caporeal (2011), for further studies of this social proclivity. If one might avail, for example, school children, especially disadvantaged, might do better in school in supportive teams of nominally five, then as groups of three, and so on. And cohousing and ecovillage communities seem to succeed best at around a diverse 100 person membership.

Psychological studies of relationships tend to focus on specific types of close personal relationships (romantic, parent–offspring, friendship) and examine characteristics of both the individuals and the dyad. This paper looks more broadly at the wider range of relationships that constitute an individual's personal social world. Recent work on the composition of personal social networks suggests that they consist of a series of layers that differ in the quality and quantity of relationships involved. Each layer increases relationship numbers by an approximate multiple of 3 (5–15-50–150) but decreasing levels of intimacy (strong, medium, and weak ties) and frequency of interaction. To account for these regularities, we draw on both social and evolutionary psychology to argue that relationships at different layers serve different functions and have different cost-benefit profiles. At each layer, the benefits are asymptotic but the costs of maintaining a relationship at that level (most obviously, the time that has to be invested in servicing it) are roughly linear with the number of relationships. (Abstract)

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