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VII. WumanKinder: An Emergent Earthomo Transition in Individuality

2. Complex Local to Global Network Biosocieties

Wilson, David Sloan. Darwin’s Cathedral. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002. As the overall model of evolution shifts from a branching tree to a sequential multilevel structure, a view of social groups as adaptive organisms gains increasing validity. A leading proponent explains how religious societies provide a prime example of organic behavior on a communal scale.

Wilson, David Sloan, et al. Cognitive Cooperation. Human Nature. 15/3, 2004. By clever “twenty questions” experiments, the subliminal presence of a group mental activity and semblance of a collective mind can for the first time be quantified.

Cognitive cooperation needs to occupy center stage in evolutionary psychology, which in turn can provide a unifying conceptual framework for all research on group cognition. (248)

Wilson, Edward, O. The Social Conquest of Earth. New York: Norton, 2012. The octogenarian entomologist and philosopher proceeds with another erudite, concerned volume. Drawing upon lifelong studies of colonial insects, and on recent collaborations with Martin Nowak and David Sloan Wilson, the work goes on to emphasize the active, evolutionary role of “group selection” in propelling our Homo Sapiens Sapiens take over. The message is that if properly understood, admitted and availed, the wisdom might help temper our species’ obsession for internecine conflicts.

Wu, Bin, et al. Evolution of Cooperation on Stochastic Dynamical Networks. PLoS One. 5/6, 2010. Peking University, Max Planck Institute, and Harvard University systems scientists propose to solve the Darwinian dichotomy between our human penchant for community and natural selection alone which should be in opposition to this. If the involvement of complex network processes can newly be factored in, they serve to explain how individual gains can accrue from ones appropriate behavior to foster a supportive social viability.

Cooperation is ubiquitous in the real world ranging from genes to multicellular organisms. Most importantly, human society is based upon cooperation. However this cooperative behavior apparently contradicts natural selection. Selfish behavior will be rewarded during competition between individuals, because selfish individuals enjoy the benefits from the cooperation of others, but avoid the associated costs. Therefore, the puzzle how natural selection can lead to cooperation has fascinated evolutionary biologists since Darwin. (1)

Cooperative behavior that increases the fitness of others at a cost to oneself can be promoted by natural selection only in the presence of an additional mechanism. One such mechanism is based on population structure, which can lead to clustering of cooperating agents. Recently, the focus has turned to complex dynamical population structures such as social networks, where the nodes represent individuals and links represent social relationships. (1)

Yang, Wu, et al. Nonlinear Effects of Group Size on Collective Action. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 110/10916, 2013. Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State University, researchers update prior work with complex systems science, as the Abstract explains, to achieve better guidance for a human abide and benefit for individual, community, and environment. The working unit is a “household,” but it is not said how many members. In any event, once again an “intermediate group size” that reciprocates “free-riders” and communal values, i.e., a balance of chaos and order, appears best. While this is not seen as an independent principle, one could cite a “me + we,” ubuntu, competitive coherence, or “creative union” exemplar. And what collective faculty (the seven authors are Chinese and American) has now appeared out of human millennias able to so quantify and reflect?

For decades, scholars have been trying to determine whether small or large groups are more likely to cooperate for collective action and successfully manage common-pool resources. Using data gathered from the Wolong Nature Reserve since 1995, we examined the effects of group size (i.e., number of households monitoring a single forest parcel) on both collective action (forest monitoring) and resource outcomes (changes in forest cover) while controlling for potential confounding factors. Our results demonstrate that group size has nonlinear effects on both collective action and resource outcomes, with intermediate group size contributing the most monitoring effort and leading to the biggest forest cover gain. We also show how opposing effects of group size directly and indirectly affect collective action and resource outcomes, leading to the overall nonlinear relationship. The findings also suggest that it should be possible to improve collective action and resource outcomes by altering factors that lead to the nonlinear group-size effect, including punishing free riding, enhancing overall and within-group enforcement, improving social capital across groups and among group members, and allowing self-selection during the group formation process so members with good social relationships can form groups autonomously. (Abstract)

Youngman, Paul and Mirsad Hadzikadic, eds. Complexity and the Human Experience: Modeling Complexity in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Singapore: Pan Stanford Publishing, 2014. An initial volume which gathers much material that can illustrate how complex system revisions have spread to and reinvigorated every field and aspect. Thus another application of generic “complex adaptive systems” in this cultural realm is achieved. Typical chapters are Complexity Theory and Political Change: Talcott Parsons Occupies Wall Street by Martin Zwick, and Scientific Paradigms in US Policy: Is It Time for Complexity Science? By Michael Givel and Liz Johnson.

Complexity science is the study of how large numbers of relatively simple entities organize themselves into a collective whole that creates patterns, uses information, and, in some cases, evolves and learns. Those collective wholes that do not evolve and learn are complex systems; those that do are complex adaptive systems (CAS). Complexity and its various systems have been a topic of study in the natural sciences for decades already Physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, meteorology, and engineering practitioners have used the concept of complex systems to explain phenomena as diverse as phase transitions in physical matter, immune system functions, and weather patterns. Our authors show how complexity ontology with its corresponding emphasis on modeling has already effectively spread to the social sciences and is at the very threshold of making a significant impact on the humanities has already effectively spread to the social sciences and is at the very threshold of making a significant impact on the humanities. (Introduction Abstract)

Zhou, Wei-Zing, et al. Discrete Hierarchical Organization of Social Group Sizes. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 272/439, 2005. An international team of social theorists that includes Zhou, East China University of Science and Technology, Didier Sornette, UCLA and Universite´de Nice-Sophia Antipolis, Russell Hall, University of Durham, and Robin Dunbar, University of Liverpool, find a fascinating mathematical pattern and sequence to underlie and guide human sociability. As the quote conveys, a primate and hominid evolutionary past continues on to our propensity to aggregate into nested, sequentially larger, assemblies. Their iterative formation is further noticed to follow a fractal self-similarity, nature’s repetitive creativity arises apace. But these quantitative insights, if availed, may then reveal and teach a better way forward. Rather than each child as a lone learner, children might prosper more in small, mixed, supportive teams. Moving up the scale, as Sustainable Ecovillages reports, a nominal 100 folks, the archetypal tribe, band, or clan size, again serves these intentional, reciprocal communities.

The ‘social brain hypothesis’ for the evolution of large brains in primates has led to evidence for the coevolution of neocortical size and social group sizes, suggesting that there is a cognitive constraint on group size that depends, in some way, on the volume of neural material available for processing and synthesizing information on social relationships. More recently, work on both human and non-human primates has suggested that social groups are often hierarchically structured. We combine data on human grouping patterns in a comprehensive and systematic study. Using fractal analysis, we identify, with high statistical confidence, a discrete hierarchy of group sizes with a preferred scaling ratio close to three: rather than a single or a continuous spectrum of group sizes, humans spontaneously form groups of preferred sizes organized in a geometrical series approximating 3–5, 9–15, 30–45, etc. Such discrete scale invariance could be related to that identified in signatures of herding behaviour in financial markets and might reflect a hierarchical processing of social nearness by human brains. (Abstract, 439)

In this sequence, the core social grouping is the support clique, defined as the set of individuals from whom the respondent would seek personal advice or help in times of severe emotional and financial distress; its mean size is typically 3–5 individuals. Above this may be discerned a grouping of 12–20 individuals (often referred to as a sympathy group) that characteristically consists of all the individuals with whom one has special ties; these individuals are typically contacted at least once per month. The ethnographic data on hunter-gatherer societies point to a grouping of 30–50 individuals as the typical size of overnight camps (sometimes referred to as bands); these groupings are often unstable, but their membership is always drawn from the same set of individuals, who typically number ca. 150 individuals. This last grouping is often identified in small-scale traditional societies as the clan or regional group. Beyond these, at least two larger-scale groupings have been identified in the ethnographic literature: the megaband of ca. 500 individuals and the tribe (a linguistic unit, commonly of 1000–2000 individuals). (440)

Zingg, Christian, et al. What is the Entropy of a Social Organization? Entropy. 21/9, 2019. ETH Zurich, System Design researchers including Frank Schweitzer achieve a novel network characterization of behavioral activities by overtly viewing members as node points which are then linked by constant, informational interconnections. By this constructive application, still another archetypal manifestation of nature’s quantome to genome, neurome, and textome universality continues forth to grace our busy groupings.

We quantify a social organization’s potentiality to attain different network configurations in which nodes correspond to individuals and edges to their multiple interactions. Altogether these models are treated as a network ensemble. To have the ability to encode interaction preferences, we choose the generalized hypergeometric form of random graphs, as described by a closed-form probability distribution. From this distribution we calculate Shannon entropy as a measure of potentiality. This allows us to compare different organizations as well as different stages in their development. The feasibility of the approach is demonstrated using data from three empirical and two synthetic systems. (Abstract edits)

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