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

2. Complex Local to Global Network Biosocieties

Nowak, Andrzej and Robin Vallacher. Toward Computational Social Psychology. Stephen Read and Lynn Miller, eds. Connectionist Models of Social Reasoning and Social Behavior. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 1998. On the growing perception that groups possess attributes of and operate as cognitive entities.

If one were to identify a candidate for greater complexity than the brain, it would have to be a structure composed of interacting brains - in effect, a social group. Like a brain, a social group is more than a mere collection of separate elements. To the contrary what defines a group is the set of connections among the various elements (i.e., individuals) comprising the group. Just as the network of connections among neurons gives rise to identifiable brain states, the network of connections among members of a group give rise to identifiable group properties. (277)

Nowak, Andrzej, et al, eds. Complex Human Dynamics: From Minds to Societies. Berlin: Springer, 2013. A unique community of systems scientists has formed over past years between the University of Warsaw and Florida Atlantic University (also home to Scott Kelso’s Center for Complex Systems and Brain Sciences) with a focus upon salutary reconceptions of psychological, social and cultural mores by way of nonlinear dynamical complexities. On message, a 1998 volume Dynamical Social Psychology (search) by Nowak and FAU psychologist Robin Vallacher scoped out the project. This major update covers a gamut from neural substrates to national conflicts. Sample chapters include A Dynamical Systems Approach to Conceptualizing and Investigating the Self by Urszula Strawinska, A Dynamic Approach to Multicultural Integration, Wouter de Raad, and Group as a Unit of Analysis by Karolina Lisiecka. A brave outreach of this endeavor is its application to better understand sources of incessant, internecine warfare, and then how to remediate and resolve them. In regard see a special issue of Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology (16/2, 2010, search Vallacher).

This book presents simple models of complex psychological and social phenomena. In complex systems, even very simple rules of interaction between simple elements may lead to the emergence of complex properties at the level of the system. It follows that at least some complex phenomena may have very simple explanations. Computer simulations are used to explore which simple rules may explain the complex phenomena that have been observed. Simple elements must interact in time for complex phenomena to emerge. Minimalist theories based on emergence must be dynamic. In this approach, unlike approaches in the traditional social sciences, one tries to concentrate on the most essential properties of the phenomena to be explained, rather than trying to capture the phenomenon in its naturally occurring complexity. The task of the researcher is to try to find the set of the simplest possible, but realistic, rules that can reproduce the essence of the phenomena to be explained. (Preface, vii-viii)

Perc, Matjaz. The Social Physics Collective. Nature Scientific Reports. 9/16459, 2019. The University of Maribor, Slovenia, polyscholar (search) introduces a special collection of papers within this journal to contain ways that our behaviors and activities across a wide domain such as epidemics, crime, warfare, financial markets and more.

More than two centuries ago Henri de Saint-Simon envisaged physical laws to describe human societies. Driven by advances in statistical physics, network science, data analysis, and information technology, this vision is becoming a reality. Many of the grandest challenges of our time are of a societal nature, and methods of physics are increasingly playing a central role in improving our understanding of these challenges, and helping us to find innovative solutions. The Social Physics Collection at Scientific Reports is dedicated to this research.

Perc, Matjaz, et al. Statistical Physics of Human Cooperation. Physics Reports. Online May, 2017. (arXiv:1705.07161) An international team with postings in Slovenia, USA, China, Italy, Israel, and Hungary, including Stefano Boccaletti, contribute to this project to explain social phenomena in terms of basic condensed matter theories and principles. Search each author, herein, Active Matter and throughout for more examples, as complexity science proceeds to join diversity with unity. An import, not yet realized but hopefully soon to be, is the presence of a common, independent program, which as a is similarly in formative, dynamic effect at each and every stage and instance.

Extensive cooperation among unrelated individuals is unique to humans, who often sacrifice personal benefits for the common good and work together to achieve what they are unable to execute alone. The evolutionary success of our species is indeed due, to a large degree, to our unparalleled other-regarding abilities. Yet, a comprehensive understanding of human cooperation remains a formidable challenge. Recent research in social science indicates that it is important to focus on the collective behavior that emerges as the result of the interactions among individuals, groups, and even societies. Non-equilibrium statistical physics, in particular Monte Carlo methods and the theory of collective behavior of interacting particles near phase transition points, has proven to be very valuable for understanding counterintuitive evolutionary outcomes. Here we review experimental and theoretical research that advances our understanding of human cooperation, focusing on spatial pattern formation, on the spatiotemporal dynamics of observed solutions, and on self-organization that may either promote or hinder socially favorable states. (Abstract excerpt)

Plotkin, Henry. Evolution in Mind. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998. A psychologist and philosopher employs a hierarchical view of evolution to sort out many conceptual issues whose latest phase is a global sentience.

It is often said that the human brain is the most complicated thing in the universe. Not so, say I. The most complicated thing in the universe is the collective of human brains and their psychological processes that make up human culture, which is defined here as shared knowledge and beliefs. In part this complexity arises from the extragenetic transmission that lies at the heart of culture. (222)

Rainie, Lee and Barry Wellman. Networked: The New Social Operating System. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012. Due by May, a former managing editor of U.S. News and World Report, and a University of Toronto sociologist coin a quite 21st century phrase: “networked individualism.”

Daily life is connected life, its rhythms driven by endless email pings and responses, the chimes and beeps of continually arriving text messages, tweets and retweets, Facebook updates, pictures and videos to post and discuss. In Networked, Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman show how the large, loosely knit social circles of networked individuals expand opportunities for learning, problem solving, decision making, and personal interaction. The new social operating system of “networked individualism” liberates us from the restrictions of tightly knit groups; it also requires us to develop networking skills and strategies, work on maintaining ties, and balance multiple overlapping networks. Rainie and Wellman outline the “triple revolution” that has brought on this transformation: the rise of social networking, the capacity of the Internet to empower individuals, and the always-on connectivity of mobile devices. Drawing on extensive evidence, they examine how the move to networked individualism has expanded personal relationships beyond households and neighborhoods; transformed work into less hierarchical, more team-driven enterprises; encouraged individuals to create and share content; and changed the way people obtain information.

Rakoczy, Hannes. Collective Intentionality and the Roots of Human Societal Life. Roska-Hardy, Louise and Eva Neumann-Held, eds. Learning from Animals?. East Sussex, UK: Psychology Press, 2009. In a volume to “examine the nature of human uniqueness,” a Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology researcher cites a prime difference as the rise of purpose-oriented societal fabric. One wonders however might it ever be intentionally imbued with an obvious Me and We reciprocity?

The upshot of these two studies is that the rudiments of second-order intentionality that develop in human ontogeny at around 1 year are probably not so uniquely human after all; our common cognitive primate heritage runs deeper that previously thought. (110) What is uniquely human, however, and a likely foundation of specifically human forms of life is the ability, developing from the second year in human ontogeny, to enter into collective (or “We”) intentionality. (110)

Read, Dwight. A Multitrajectory, Competition Model of Emergent Complexity in Human Social Organization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. 99/7251, 2002. The theories of agent-based complex adaptive systems are employed to reveal a consistent, discernible social dynamic throughout human history.

The repeated pattern of emergent human organization at a societal level going from small-scale, egalitarian decentralized societies to complex, stratified and centralized societies is well-documented in the archaeological record of past societies. (7251)

Richerson, Peter and Robert Boyd. Not By Genes Alone. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005. Some two decades after their groundbreaking 1985 work Culture and the Evolutionary Process, a comprehensive review and update of how human societies can be joined with and founded upon Darwinian genetic and selective features. Richerson’s website contains additional resources in this regard. By these advances, the fields of cultural, behavioral and anthropological studies can gain a common basis, whereby to paraphrase Dobzhansky, “Nothing about culture makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

Riddihough, Guy, et al. Human Conflict: Winning the Peace. Science. 336/819, 2012. An introduction to a special issue by anthropologists, behavioral scientists, and social philosophers who consider in 21st century retrospect primate, hominid, and human proclivities for either constant war or harmonious accord. In “The Antiquity of Empathy” Frans de Waal tries to right an over-emphasis on competition, while Christopher Boehm’s “Ancestral Hierarchy and Conflict” reviews fighting or its absence within chimpanzee, bonobo, and human groupings - always by males, sometimes mitigated by females. “The Group Self” by Leiden University psychologist Naomi Ellemers notes how allegiances can influence both clashes or concord. A prominent essay “Life Without War” by “peace, mediation, and conflict researcher” Douglas Fry, Abo Akademi University, Finland, contends that local and global amity is innately possible. As Yoko Ono’s renowned quote from our home page avers, “Let’s visualize all the people living in peace. Let’s carry the clearest vision of a peaceful world. And do it with a spirit of fun and joy. War is over if you want it.”

An emerging evolutionary perspective suggests that nature and human nature are less “red in tooth and claw” than generally acknowledged by a competition-based view of the biological world. War is not always present in human societies. Peace systems, defined as groups of neighboring societies that do not make war on each other, exist on different continents. A comparison of three peace systems—the Upper Xingu River basin tribes of Brazil, the Iroquois Confederacy of upper New York State, and the European Union —highlight six features hypothesized to be important in the creation and maintenance of intersocietal peace: (i) an overarching social identity, (ii) interconnections among subgroups, (iii) interdependence, (iv) nonwarring values, (v) symbolism and ceremonies that reinforce peace, and (vi) superordinate institutions for conflict management. The existence of peace systems demonstrates that it is possible to create social systems free of war. (Douglas Fry, 879)

Rubin, Paul. Darwinian Politics: The Evolutionary Origin of Freedom. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002. An Emory University economist sketches an evolutionary basis for altruistic, political and religious mores, as is underway for psychological behaviors, along with recommendations for how we might do better.

Sanchez, Angel and Jose Cuesta. Altruism may Arise from Individual Selection. Journal of Theoretical Biology. 235/2, 2005. A theoretical difficulty has been to explain the human tendency to cooperate in large groups with non-kin which appears to offer little benefit to the individual. This study describes an agent-based model of evolutionary game theory to show how personal fairness and selection can indeed result in an altruistic strong reciprocity.

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