How a Polymath Mastered Math—and So Can You
‘Mindshift’ author Barbara Oakley on the science and practice of learning—and finding love at the South Pole.
The founding members of the EI’s Cultural Evolution Society were surveyed to identify the major scientific questions and ‘grand challenges’ currently facing the study of cultural evolution. They present the results and discuss the implications for an emergent synthesis in the study of culture based on Darwinian principles.
Seshat is a vast and growing database of historical and archaeological knowledge that can be explored using scientific techniques. That makes it a powerful tool for testing and ultimately discarding hypotheses. “A cemetery for theories,” is how Seshat co-founder Peter Turchin at the University of Connecticut in Storrs describes it. By making history more evidence-based, he and his colleagues hope it will become more relevant.
Complex human societies, including our own, are fragile. They are held together by an invisible web of mutual trust and social cooperation. This web can fray easily, resulting in a wave of political instability, internal conflict and, sometimes, outright social collapse.
Analysis of past societies shows that these destabilizing historical trends develop slowly, last many decades, and are slow to subside. The Roman Empire, Imperial China and medieval and early-modern England and France suffered such cycles, to cite a few examples. In the U.S., the last long period of instability began in the 1850s and lasted through the Gilded Age and the “violent 1910s.”
Read the rest of the article here.
In a recent episode of Through the Wormhole titled “What Makes a Terrorist?”, Morgan Freeman presented Prof. Turchin’s ‘radical’ idea, and Evolution Institute project Seshat: Global History Databank, of using history as a guide to understand why people join terrorist groups, what breeds such groups to begin with, and what to do about it now.
In National Geographic’s The Story of God, host Morgan Freeman travels to Çatalhöyük, a Neolithic proto-city settlement in Anatolia, Turkey to investigate whether early farming civilizations believed in God. At the Çatalhöyük site, Freeman interviews Evolution Institute scientific advisor and University of Oxford anthropologist Prof. Harvey Whitehouse.
Evolution Institute’s Vice President Peter Turchin’s newest book has been featured in the Salon article “Breaking point: America approaching a period of disintegration, argues anthropologist Peter Turchin”
The Brexit vote caught most elite observers by surprise and has spurred a flurry of talk of further possible defections from the EU. But one person who was not so surprised was Evolution Institute Vice President Peter Turchin, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Connecticut, author most recently of “Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth.”
In the Science of Civilizations, Brexit Is the European Union’s Reckoning
On June 23, millions of United Kingdom citizens will vote to leave the European Union. And millions of others will vote to remain. If the leavers win, the UK and EU will begin a methodical divorce that many analysts expect to destabilize the nation and the continent.
All of which might happen eventually, no matter what the UK decides. The so-called Brexit vote is the culmination of years of growing disillusionment—mostly from older and working class Britons—with the European Union’s trade agreements and open border policies. It is also part of a larger trend. Across Europe, populist parties have been fighting to regain sovereignty from the EU. The problems of each country, and of the European Union itself, are contemporary, specific, and complicated. But they fit into a model that some scientists have recognized as symptomatic of a civilization on its way towards disintegration.
The European Union began after World War II as set of trade agreements between five countries. Nations with close business ties, the thinking went, would probably be less likely turn squabbles into wars. Over 60 years, the compact has grown into a proper government across 28 member nations, regulating all those things that governments regulate: economy, labor, environment, migration. “I think of the European Union as an empire,” says Peter Turchin, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Connecticut. “The EU is unusual because it was constructed without conquest, but in terms of functionality it is not unlike other historical examples.” Read the rest of the article at Wired
photo via flickr.com/slimjim
Receive a free gift when donating $20 or more.
Receive a free gift when donating $20 or more.