VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies
2. Complex Local and Global Societies
Chatterjee, Arnab, et al. Universality in Voting Behavior. Nature Scientific Reports. 3/1049, 2013. With Marija Mitrovic and Santo Fortunato, Aalto University, Finland, biophysicists quantify amongst the vast data of popular elections this property that regardless of the country or continent, the same patterns appear over and over. As the second quote cites, a continuity is becoming noticed that spans from many body matter in motion to complex network societal phenomena, as these fields converge. But it has not yet dawned as a subject for study how much electoral results ever polarize between political left liberal and right conservative, We (women) and Me (men), which begs to be availed as a salutary complementarity. For later evidence, see Universal Scaling Laws in Metro Area Election Results at arXiv:1704.01337.
Election data represent a precious source of information to study human behavior at a large scale. In proportional elections with open lists, the number of votes received by a candidate, rescaled by the average performance of all competitors in the same party list, has the same distribution regardless of the country and the year of the election. Here we provide the first thorough assessment of this claim. We analyzed election datasets of 15 countries with proportional systems. We confirm that a class of nations with similar election rules fulfill the universality claim. Discrepancies from this trend in other countries with open-lists elections are always associated with peculiar differences in the election rules, which matter more than differences between countries and historical periods. (Abstract)
Christakis, Nicholas. Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society. New York: Little, Brown, 2019. This opus by the physician and sociologist (bio below) is a prime contribution our current historic synthesis of science and culture. As 500+ pages of theory and example serve to explain and document, the old sway of competition from Darwin’s day can at last be set aside. Rather, an innate propensity for cooperation of benefit to both member and group is now known as nature’s behavioral rule and preference. Moreover, it’s occasion can be seen as deeply rooted and written into our individual and collective genetic heritage. We cite an endorsement among many for this breakthrough accomplishment.
Christakis has found that all human cultures converge on a consistent style of social network, and in Blueprint he explores the reasons why. The answer, he boldly argues, lies in our genes. Digging widely, he shows that a gene-based account does not have to challenge the impact of culture, nor does it commit the analysis to reductionism or determinism. Blueprint stakes a powerful claim for a richer incorporation of biology into the social sciences. (Richard Wrangham)
Claidiere, Nicolas, et al. Convergent Transformation and Selection in Cultural Evolution. Evolution and Human Behavior. 39/2, 201. Scholars from France, Britain, and Hungary including Simon Kirby, Kenny Smith, and Dan Sperber provide a latest update toward an obvious, inevitable synthesis of biological and social evolutionary phenomena. In regard, if transformative aspects of behavioral mores and societal abidance are factored in, clarifications can be achieved.
In biology, natural selection is the main explanation of adaptations and it is an attractive idea to think that an analogous force could have the same role in cultural evolution. In support of this idea, all the main ingredients for natural selection have been documented in the cultural domain. However, the changes that occur during cultural transmission typically result in convergent transformation, non-random cultural modifications, casting some doubts on the importance of natural selection in the cultural domain. Using nearly half a million experimental trials performed by a group of baboons, we simulate cultural evolution under various conditions of natural selection. Our results confirm that transformation strongly constrains the variation available to selection and therefore limits its impact on cultural evolution. (Abstract excerpt)
Cliff, Oliver, et al. Network Properties of Salmonella Epidemics. Nature Scientific Reports. 9/6159, 2019. University of Sydney and Westmead Hospital, Sydney complexity theorists including Mikhail Prokopenko apply the latest nonlinear theories to the seasonal spread of this common disease. By clever technique and analysis, once again even such vicarious public inflictions can be seen to take on similar mathematical forms just as everywhere else. Here then is ever more evidence of a universal, independent genetic-like source at generative, exemplary effect.
We examine non-typhoidal Salmonella (S. Typhimurium or STM) epidemics as complex systems, driven by evolution and interactions of diverse microbial strains, and focus on emergence of successful strains. Our findings challenge the established view that seasonal epidemics are associated with random sets of co-circulating STM genotypes. We use high-resolution molecular genotyping data comprising 17,107 STM isolates representing nine consecutive seasonal epidemics in Australia, genotyped by multiple-locus variable-number tandem-repeats analysis (MLVA). From these data, we infer weighted undirected networks based on distances between the MLVA profiles, depicting epidemics as networks of individual bacterial strains. (Abstract excerpt)
Conradt, Larissa and Christian List. Group Decisions in Humans and Animals. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. 364/719, 2009. A survey of this Theme Issue wherein leading researchers show how the presence quorum sensing procedures serve to self-organize an agreed communal response from invertebrates to mammals. For example, a paper by Christian List, et al, bees seem to know best through a complementarity of independent and interdependent decisions.
Currie, Thomas and Ruth Mace. Evolution of Cultural Traits Occurs at Similar Rates in Different World Regions. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 281/20141622, 2014. From our late global vista, University of Exeter and University College London anthropologists are able to detect norms and trends that recur across human societies independent of any specific setting. Ethnographic data, linguistic phylogenies, changes in language families, ecological and social variables, and so on reveal common patterns that seem to persist over and again.
A fundamental issue in understanding human diversity is whether or not there are regular patterns and processes involved in cultural change. Theoretical and mathematical models of cultural evolution have been developed and are increasingly being used and assessed in empirical analyses. Here, we test the hypothesis that the rates of change of features of human socio-cultural organization are governed by general rules. One prediction of this hypothesis is that different cultural traits will tend to evolve at similar relative rates in different world regions, despite the unique historical backgrounds of groups inhabiting these regions. We used phylogenetic comparative methods and systematic cross-cultural data to assess how different socio-cultural traits changed in (i) island southeast Asia and the Pacific, and (ii) sub-Saharan Africa. These results suggest that despite contingent historical events and the role of humans as active agents in the historical process, culture does indeed evolve in ways that can be predicted from general principles. (Abstract)
Danku, Zsuzsa, et al. Knowing the Past Improves Cooperation in the Future. Nature Scientific Reports. 9/262, 2019. ZD and Attila Szolnoki, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, with Matjaz Perc, University of Maribor, Slovenia, achieve a mathematical basis as to why a reference to past experiences of successes and failures can improve cooperative responses going forward to new behavioral situations.
Cooperation is the cornerstone of human evolutionary success. Like no other species, we champion the sacrifice of personal benefits for the common good, and we work together to achieve what we are unable to achieve alone. Knowledge and information from past generations is thereby often instrumental in ensuring we keep cooperating rather than deteriorating to less productive ways of coexistence. Here we present a mathematical model based on evolutionary game theory that shows how using the past as the benchmark for evolutionary success, rather than just current performance, significantly improves cooperation in the future. Cooperation is promoted because information from the past disables fast invasions of defectors, thus enhancing the long-term benefits of cooperative behavior. (Abstract)
Dean, Lewis, et al. Human Cumulative Culture: A Comparative Perspective. Biological Reviews. 89/2, 2014. As the beneficial presence of relative knowledge repositories across animal species becomes evident, University of St. Andrews and Durham University cognitive biologists including Gillian Vale and Kevin Laland scope out how to identify and evaluate their occasion. The incentive is to emphasize how vital a collective intelligence would be for our own sapient societies.
Many animals exhibit social learning and behavioural traditions, but human culture exhibits unparalleled complexity and diversity, and is unambiguously cumulative in character. Human cumulative culture combines high-fidelity transmission of cultural knowledge with beneficial modifications to generate a ‘ratcheting’ in technological complexity, leading to the development of traits far more complex than one individual could invent alone. Claims have been made for cumulative culture in several species of animals, including chimpanzees, orangutans and New Caledonian crows, but these remain contentious. Whilst initial work on the topic of cumulative culture was largely theoretical, employing mathematical methods developed by population biologists, in recent years researchers from a wide range of disciplines, including psychology, biology, economics, biological anthropology, linguistics and archaeology, have turned their attention to the experimental investigation of cumulative culture. (Abstract)
Deville, Pierre, et al. Scaling Identity Connects Human Mobility and Social Interactions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 113/7047, 2016. International systems scientists including Chaoming Song and Albert-Laszlo Barabasi proceed to quantify the presence of intrinsic mathematical topologies that underlie, unbeknownst, the seemingly incoherent surface daily activities.
Massive datasets that capture human movements and social interactions have catalyzed rapid advances in our quantitative understanding of human behavior during the past years. One important aspect affecting both areas is the critical role space plays. Indeed, growing evidence suggests both our movements and communication patterns are associated with spatial costs that follow reproducible scaling laws, each characterized by its specific critical exponents. Although human mobility and social networks develop concomitantly as two prolific yet largely separated fields, we lack any known relationships between the critical exponents explored by them, despite the fact that they often study the same datasets. Here, by exploiting three different mobile phone datasets that capture simultaneously these two aspects, we discovered a new scaling relationship, mediated by a universal flux distribution, which links the critical exponents characterizing the spatial dependencies in human mobility and social networks. Therefore, the widely studied scaling laws uncovered in these two areas are not independent but connected through a deeper underlying reality. (Abstract)
Eibl-Eibesfeldt, Irenaus and Frank Salter, eds. Indoctrinability, Ideology and Warfare. New York: Berghahn Books, 1998. In search of evolutionary reasons for the human propensity to form a distinct social identity in contrast to other ethnic, religious, racial, or national “out groups,” which must be fought against. The working assumption is that innate, advantageous group selection processes are constantly stressed and imperiled by male combativeness.
Epstein, Jacob. Generative Social Science. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. A Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution provides a summary volume of his theories of agent-based computational modeling, such as his noted Sugarscape scenario (with Robert Axtell). The work includes his own papers along with salient case studies by other authors. Be advised that most reprinted chapters are dated, such as Epstein’s main statement which is from 1996.
In Generative Social Science, Joshua Epstein argues that this powerful, novel technique permits the social sciences to meet a fundamentally new standard of explanation, in which one "grows" the phenomenon of interest in an artificial society of interacting agents: heterogeneous, boundedly rational actors, represented as mathematical or software objects. After elaborating this notion …., Epstein illustrates it with examples chosen from such far-flung fields as archaeology, civil conflict, the evolution of norms, epidemiology, retirement economics, spatial games, and organizational adaptation. (publisher’s website)
Fischer, Michael, et al. Introduction. Cybernetics and Systems. 36/8, 2005. To a special issue on Culture, Knowledge, and Behavior from an anthropology and systems perspective. Of especial note are papers by Irina Ezhkova on Self-Organizing Representations and On the Nature of Culture and Communication by Jurgen Kluver and Christina Stoica, which proposes that cognition and society is best viewed as complex adaptive systems.