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

2. Complex Local to Global Network Biosocieties

Carbone, A., et al. Where do We Stand on Econophysics? Physica A. 382/1, 2007. A volume of the Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Applications of Physics in Financial Analysis, Torino, Italy, June 2006. This introductory survey extols the growing affinity between statistical physics and social phenomena, which can imply a common natural recurrence from atomic to commercial realms.

In the last decades of the 20th century, a pioneering fringe of economists began thus to experiment with models of economic phenomena that were radically different from traditional ones. Elementary agents having the ability to exchange information, learning and adapting their behavior, thus started their migration from physics to populate economical systems. The introduction of the concept of complex adaptive systems – where the macroscopic behavior emerges from the microscopic interactions – implies a literal revolution in the socio-economical thought: the microeconomics and macroeconomics, traditionally considered as separate disciplines, are intimately related according to the new economic views. (xii)

Castellani, Brian and Frederic Hafferty. Sociology and Complexity Science. Berlin: Springer, 2009. Kent State University and Mayo Clinic sociologists contribute to the current “turn” for this field of study, furthest from physics, to reconceive itself in terms of nonlinear systems theory. This SACS approach involves agent-based modeling, cellular automata, neural nets and self-organizing maps, genetic algorithms, dynamical chaos theory, fractals, power laws, and so on. To set a scene, it begins with a concise history of sociological thought - Talcott Parsons, Robert Merton, Randall Collins - leading up to this resolve. CS, while seen as ‘postmodern’ for an apparent unpredictability, is said in fact to be based on mathematical reliabilities (see also Sornette). By virtue, this novel method moves beyond reduction and mechanism, having run their course, to reveal that “life is holistic, self-organizing, emergent, highly relational, dynamic, interconnected,…” With a get-it-done attitude, five challenges are cited: revise science, become global, clarify vocabularies, add informatics, all in a sense as social physics.

Chakravarti, Aravinda. Kinship: Race Relations. Nature. 457/380, 2009. The recent sequencing of the homo sapiens genome, along with an increasing number of individual persons, is revealing, as we ought to expect and know, that over the globe people are each and all multiracially related and akin. Its promise if fully appreciated would be a personal earthkind peaceably united in body, brain and self identity.

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)

We know from statistical physics that systems of many particles exhibit, in the aggregate, a behavior which is enforced by a few basic features of the individual particles, but independent of all other characteristics. This result is particularly striking in critical phenomena, like continuous phase transitions and is known as universality. Empirical evidence shows that a number of social phenomena are also characterized by simple emergent behavior out of the interactions of many individuals. The most striking example is collective motion. Therefore, in the last years a growing community of scholars have been analyzing large scale social dynamics and proposing simple microscopic models to describe it, alike the minimalistic models used in statistical physics. Such scientific endeavour, initially known by the name of sociophysics, has been meanwhile augmented by scholars and tools of other disciplines, like applied mathematics, social and computer science, and is currently referred to as computational social science. (1)

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)

Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, is the Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale University, with appointments in the departments of Sociology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Statistics and Data Science, Biomedical Engineering, and Medicine. He has conducted research and taught for many years at Harvard University and at the University of Chicago. He worked as a hospice physician in underserved communities in Chicago and Boston until 2011.

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.

Contoyiannis, Y., et al. Self-Organized Criticality in an Epidemic Spread Model. arXiv:2004.00682. We select this entry by six Greek physicists among many current papers which seeking to achieve a complex network system analysis for its notice of critical phenomena even this virulent social area. In our cruelest April, however might it dawn that a deeper realm of mathematic codings which inform and constrain our fraught lives are just being revealed?

The previously introduced model of self-organized criticality is here adapted to the case of a virus-induced epidemic. In regard, our study highlights the critical value of virus density over a population. For low values it is proved that the virus-diffusion behavior is safe and is quantitatively similar to epidemical data. But close to the critical point, a critical slowing-down phenomenon emerges. Additionally, the epidemic behavior holds to a second order phase transition. For virus density values higher that the critical value, the epidemic duration becomes extremely prolonged. All these results, together with effective interventions such as contact restriction measures, documents their scientific worthiness. (Abstract)

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)

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