Cliodynamics in Popular Media
History as a giant data set: how analysing the past could help save the future by Laura Spinney (The Guardian)
Calculating the patterns and cycles of the past could lead us to a better understanding of history. Could it also help us prevent a looming crisis?
This article was also published in Chinese
La modélisation de l’histoire prédit un cycle de crises dès 2020 by Odile Romelot (Slate.fr)
Collecter, analyser et interpréter des données historiques est ce qui anime Peter Turchin, un biologiste qui se servait autrefois des mathématiques pour matérialiser les interactions entre proies et prédateurs, rapporte Laura Spinney dans un article du Guardian. En 2010, Turchin estimait que l’instabilité politique croissante atteindrait son paroxysme en 2020 aux États-Unis et en Europe. L’humanité traversant des phases de croissance et de déclin, 2020 signerait le début d’un cycle de crises. L’argument n’est pas nouveau, mais il s’appuie sur une analyse précise de différents facteurs tels que l’augmentation des inégalités et de la dette publique. Et surtout, il a le mérite d’avoir semble-t-il visé juste, alors que Trump risque d’être destitué et que le Royaume-Uni est englué dans un Brexit sans fin.
Will the US Drag Canada into the ‘Turbulent 2020s’? by Crawford Kilian (The Tyee)
Canadians, having just weathered our federal election and watching the United States revving up for its own, may wonder at the polarized moods on both sides of the border. Albertans angrily applaud a premier who blames nefarious outsiders for thwarting the oil affluence to which they are entitled. A third of Americans salute Donald Trump’s populism that scapegoats immigrants for why their lives aren’t yet “great again.”
All to be expected, concludes Peter Turchin, a Russian-born scientist now based at the University of Connecticut, Vienna’s Complexity Science Hub, and Oxford. After publishing several other books, Turchin brought out Ages of Discord in 2016, as the U.S. election was about to deliver Trump to the White House.
Cliodynamics: can we use history to forecast the future? (The Week)
Could gathering data from the past help us prevent a future disaster? An evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Connecticut has dedicated his career to answering this question.
Professor Peter Turchin founded a new field of academic study called cliodynamics in 2003, and then set up a research consortium eight years later to build a huge historical database called Seshat in a bid to uncover major patterns in world history.
America is edging closer to civil war by Niall Ferguson (The Times)
I also take seriously the work of Peter Turchin, who has been arguing for some time that several leading indicators of political instability (notably inequality) are set to peak around 2020, making the United States “particularly vulnerable to violent upheaval.”
Happy Birthday America: Is It Your Last? by T.A. Frank (Vanity Fair)
One of the most disturbing books on our divide comes from University of Connecticut scientist Peter Turchin, inventor of a transdisciplinary field called “cliodynamics” that attempts to combine mathematics, evolutionary biology, history, economics, psychology, and more to come up with predictive theories about human societies.
Why are we living in an age of anger – is it because of the 50-year rage cycle? by Zoe Williams (The Guardian)
There is a discipline known as cliodynamics, developed at the start of the century by the scientist Peter Turchin, which plots historical events by a series of mathematical measures. Some are obvious – equality – and some take a bit of unpacking (“elite overproduction”, for example; as a consequence of inequality, there are periods in history when there are too many extremely rich people for the positions of power that extremely rich people typically occupy. This results in them going rogue and buying themselves into power by hosing money at elections.
L’histoire déchiffrée grâce à la science des données by Alexis Riopel (Quebec Science)
« Notre but est de comprendre, avec des techniques mathématiques, comment les sociétés humaines évoluent », explique Thomas Currie, anthropologue à l’université d’Exeter, au Royaume-Uni, qui est l’un des coordonnateurs de Seshat. En décembre 2017, Seshat publiait sa première grande étude dans Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. « Cet article est fondateur, déclare Peter Turchin, professeur à l’université du Connecticut et codirecteur de Seshat. On y définit la variable qui correspond à la complexité d’une société. »
The War on Ordinary People by Andrew Yang (Daily Beast)
In his book Ages of Discord, the scholar Peter Turchin proposes a structural theory of political instability based on societies throughout history. He suggests that there are 3 main preconditions to revolution: 1. Elite oversupply and disunity; 2. Popular misery based on falling living standards; and 3. A state in fiscal crisis. He uses a host of variables to measure these conditions, including real wages, marital trends, proportion of children in two-parent households, minimum wage, wealth distribution, college tuition, oversupply of lawyers, political polarization, income tax on the wealthy, trust in government, and other factors.
Did Human Sacrifice Help People Form Complex Societies? by Laura Spinney (The Atlantic)
According to Peter Turchin, another of Seshat’s founders, who studies cultural evolution at the University of Connecticut, this mattered because the survival of historical societies often depended on their military prowess. Those that were less united and hence weaker on the battlefield may have found themselves destroyed by, or absorbed into, militarily superior ones that had rejected human sacrifice, having found better ways of promoting social cohesion. The Spanish conquest of the Inca could be considered an example of the survival of the fittest society, in this sense.
Norms are eroding: But what “norms” should progressives actually support? by Paul Rosenberg (Salon)
As shown by Peter Turchin’s “Ages of Discord: A Structural-Demographic Analysis of American History” (Salon review here), we’re currently approaching a peak period of political instability, characterized by political polarization and driven by long-term demographic trends and their interactions with existing social structures.
How societies become complex (Complexity Science Hub, Vienna)
Using big datasets to gain new insights has become increasingly attractive within the social sciences as well. One of those who emphasize social sciences on a more quantitative basis is the Russian-American scientist Peter Turchin from the University of Connecticut. Peter, who became a CSH External Faculty member last year, founded the new transdisciplinary field of “Cliodynamics,” which uses the tools of complexity science and cultural evolution to study the dynamics of historical empires, as well as modern nation-states.
2017 killed off an old political lie – that the young don’t care by Zoe Williams (The Guardian)
The school of cliodynamics, which attempts to study history according to scientific principles, posits a theory of the “cycle of violence”: episodes of civic unrest explode every 50 years. The “secular cycle” describes the economic pattern where jobs and workers start off aligned, population growth leads to job shortages and wage stagnation, wealth concentrates in fewer hands, inequality drives corruption and political breakdown, and revolution ensues.
Looking back at 2017: A shape-shifting year that promises big change ahead by Paul Rosenberg (Salon)
As explained by evolutionary anthropologist Peter Turchin in “Ages of Discord: A Structural-Demographic Analysis of American History” (Salon review here), America is in the midst of a period of escalating political instability, even potentially state breakdown. The demographic pressures driving this period will not peak until after 2020, and similar periods in the past have included the English and French revolutions as well as our own Civil War. There were not many ordinary years for people living through those times, either.
The violence comes home again by Robert Koehler (Huffington Post)
Sociologist Peter Turchin, in the wake of the Sandy Hook killings nearly five years ago, wrote: “On the battlefield, you are supposed to try to kill a person whom you’ve never met before. You are not trying to kill this particular person, you are shooting because he is wearing the enemy uniform. . . . Enemy soldiers are socially substitutable.”
Gesellschaftsforscher: “Es gibt zu viele Milliardäre in den USA” by Karin Kirchmayr (derStandard)
Der russisch-amerikanische Komplexitätsforscher Peter Turchin zeigt aufgrund mathematischer Modelle, warum Gesellschaften kollabieren. Er prognostiziert einen Höhepunkt der politischen Instabilität für die 2020er
To My Fellow Plutocrats: You Can Cure Trumpism by Nick Hanauer (Politico)
My own ideas about the effect of inequality on social instability align with the work of social scientist Peter Turchin. He and his collaborators use mathematical models to study the rise and fall of societies—an analysis that postulates a new American civil war arriving as soon as 2021 (and in a highly-armed nation already suffering from an epidemic of gun violence, he doesn’t mean “civil war” metaphorically).
America is angry, and the safety catch is off by Niall Ferguson (The Times)
In one of the most troubling books I read last year, Ages of Discord, the historian Peter Turchin argues that the rise of mass shootings is just one indicator of a coming era of civil strife comparable to the decade before the civil war of 1861-65.
The three causes he identifies are “(1) elite overproduction leading to intra-elite competition and conflict, (2) popular immiseration, resulting from falling living standards, and (3) the fiscal crisis of the state”. Turchin’s “political stress index” provides a statistical basis for this claim.
The Value of Everything: E120. Professor Steve Keen Interview- The Future of Money
Professor Steve Keen and Charles Owen discuss Ages of Discord (segment starts at 47:18)
In Paul Nuttall, Ukip’s hypocrisy is finally being revealed by Zoe Williams (The Guardian)
[Ukip chief donor Arron] Banks is a distinctly British example of what the biologist and anthropologist Peter Turchin calls “elite overproduction”. Turchin is a pioneer of cliodynamics, a discipline that examines history as a science, modelling trends mathematically according to a series of measures – inequality and population growth being the two most obvious.
APOCALYPSE WARNING: Billionaires buy up land in NEW ZEALAND as they look for safe haven by Sean Martin (Express)
The news comes just weeks after a scientist ran calculations to predict that Western society could collapse by 2020.
Peter Turchin, a professor of ecology and mathematics at the University of Connecticut, has been studying history as if it were a science and, by analysing past societies, has concluded the current societal norms are nearing their end.
Huffington Post: Society Could Collapse In A Decade, Predicts Math Historian by Mary Papenfuss
The worst is yet to come: Scientist warns social instability and political violence will peak in the 2020s. International Business Times
Society Could Collapse In A Decade, Predicts Math Historian. The Huffington Post
Što nas to očekuje? Matematičar predviđa velike političke nemire u 2020-ima. Vercernji List (in Croatian)
‘Izračunal’ našo prihodnost. Rezultat je le en: propad. Najdi.si (in Slovenian)
Professor is overtuigd: “Westerse samenleving stuikt binnen tien jaar in elkaar.” Het Nieuwsblad (in Dutch)
Mathematisch berechnet: Forscher prophezeit nahenden politischen Kollaps. FOCUS Online (in German)
Matemático cria modelo que calcula o fim da civilização. ZAP (in Portuguese)
Le début de la fin pour l’Occident ? Un mathématicien a mis au point un modèle qui prédit un effondrement social dans les années 2020 (et son modèle décrit très bien les siècles passés…). Atlantico (in French)
Daily Mail: Dự đoán thế giới ‘đại bất ổn’’ năm 2020. XaLuan (in Vietnamese)
Experte sagt Untergang der westlichen Welt durch Eliten voraus. News.de (in German)
Matemático crea un modelo que calcula el fin de la civilización. Pueblo y Sociedad Noticias (in Spanish)
Um simples cálculo matemático indica o fim da civilização. Sputnik Brazil (in Portuguese)
¿El fin está próximo? Un matemático prevé la caída de la civilización. Sputnik Mundo (in Spanish)
Academic predicts society will collapse in 2020s. The Express Tribune
Mathematician predicts the next decade will be awful. by Michael Kaplan (New York Post)
Call it the mathematics of misery. A professor from the University of Connecticut claims that his numerical calculations predict years of turmoil and unrest for the world. A pioneer in a new field of math known as “cliodynamics,” Russia-born Peter Turchin — who’s in the university’s departments of ecology and evolutionary biology, anthropology and mathematics — told the Daily Mail that his calculations “treat history as just another science.” According to Turchin’s homepage, cliodynamics “uses the tools of complexity science and cultural evolution to study the dynamics of historical empires and modern nation-states.”
Society could COLLAPSE within a decade, ‘mathematical historian’ predicts. by Jasper Hamill (The Sun)
Peter Turchin, a professor at the University of Connecticut’s department of ecology and evolutionary biology, said the next decade would be marked by political turmoil and social unrest. The academic is the world’s leading advocate of a discipline called cliodynamics, which believes historical events such as the growth and collapse of empires or religions follow clearly definable patterns.
Political violence on Earth ‘will peak in 2020s’ as Maths historian predicts potential End of Days by Jessica Haworth (Daily Mirror)
Peter Turchin from the University of Connecticut has warned that years of political instability are ahead, and will peak at some point in the next decade.
Is civilisation heading for a COLLAPSE? Mathmatical historian predicts political turmoil will peak in the 2020s by Abigail Beall (Daily Mail)
The rise and fall of civilisations can be predicted by a simple equation, and our civilisation is in for a fall some time soon. This is according to Peter Turchin, from the University of Connecticut, who says mathematics can explain human behaviour far more accurately than you might think.
Society to COLLAPSE in 2020s claims expert historian by George Martin (Daily Star)
Turchin uses mathematics to predict the course of history before it happens and thinks that we have a grim future ahead of us.
Ultrasociety (book review) by Arthur Lyon Dahl (International Environmental Forum)
Peter Turchin continues his scientific exploration of history and the rise and fall of civilizations in his new book: Ultrasociety. I have previously reviewed his 2006 book War and Peace and War and his significant paper published in Nature in 2010 Political instability may be a contributor in the coming decade which warned of the kind of problems we see emerging in many countries today and which predicted a major crisis by 2020.
Following the surprising victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential elections, Bloomberg View reposted Peter’s article, originally published in November 2013. (link) This article was then picked up by the National Post (Peter Turchin: How ‘elite overproduction’ and ‘lawyer glut’ could ruin the U.S.).
Several articles were published after the election on Peter’s 2012 prediction concerning future political turbulence in the United States.
The Pressing Problem Nobody Dares Discuss by Charles Hugh Smith (Seeking Alpha)
“Cliodynamics” Research Proves America Freaks Out Every 50 Years by James Greybey (Inverse)
Trump, el fin de la cooperación y el inicio de un ciclo de violencia by Juan Pablo Luna (Ciper)
Clinton Fails to Deliver by Paul Rosenberg (Random Lengths News)
USA 2016: The Point of No Return Pagina99
The database that is rewriting history to predict the future by Laura Spinney (New Scientist)
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.
Breaking point: America approaching a period of disintegration, argues anthropologist Peter Turchin by Paul Rosenberg (Salon)
As the 2016 campaign reaches fever pitch, the more heat there is and the less light is shed. Which is why evolutionary anthropologist Peter Turchin’s new book comes as such a breath of fresh air. “Ages of Discord: A Structural-Demographic Analysis of American History” is not about this year’s presidential election, per se, but it’s a quantum leap forward in illuminating the disintegrative trends that America has experienced over the last several decades that are currently driving our politics.
Through the Wormhole: What Makes a Terrorist? (Season 7, Episode 1)
Terrorists, like any group, have a cause to rally around. But for them, the cause justifies the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians. How can they think that way? Now, science is peering into the dark heart of terror networks to find out why.
The segment on Cliodynamics begins at 41:22
TV-14 CC Runtime: 43 minutes Release date: August 29, 2016
Why a record number of university places may not be a good thing
U.S. Issues in 2016
Salon: They’re still not telling the real story: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, and the analyses you won’t hear on cable news, by Paul Rosenberg. Link
Salon: Either one will lead to war: Hawkish Hilary and reckless Trump could both lead to prolonged new wars, by Paul Rosenberg. Link
The Globe and Mail: In America, a time of deep anxiety yet again, by Gary Mason. Link
FastCoExist: Where Are These Pitchforks That Billionaires Are So Scared Of, by Morgan Clendaniel. Link
The Huffington Post: War, Murder and the American Way, by Robert Koehler. Link
Overly Simple Energy-Economy Models Give Misleading Answers
A cultural evolutionary explanation for the not-so-surprising Brexit outcome by(Salon)
Anthropologist Peter Turchin explains how the seeds of Brexit unrest were planted during the Carolingian Empire.
In the Science of Civilizations, Brexit Is the European Union’s Reckoning by Nick Stockton (Wired.com)
Turchin describes historical empires as large-scale, multi-ethnic conglomerations—ones that wouldn’t come together except under a mighty ruling class. And across those different empires, Turchin and his anthropology colleagues look for commonalities. How do policies developed by the ruling class, for example, affect the general population’s ability to weather recession or disease? Then they develop mathematical models that strive to explain how civilizations rise and fall.
Mass Karma by Robert Koehler (Huffington Post)
The murders are not personal. The killer is employing what’s known as the “principle of social substitutability” — substituting a particular group of people for a general wrong.
“The rampage shooters see themselves as moralistic punishers striking against deep injustice,” Peter Turchin explains in his essay “Canaries in a Coalmine.” “. . . it is usually a group, an organization, an institution, or the whole society that are held responsible by the killer.
“On the battlefield,” he wrote, “you are supposed to try to kill a person whom you’ve never met before. You are not trying to kill this particular person, you are shooting because he is wearing the enemy uniform. . . . Enemy soldiers are socially substitutable.”
Mathematical History: War and Peace and War in the Age of Disruption (Science 2.0) by Alex Alainz (Science 2.0)
War, Peace and Inequality IAST Connect
Peter Turchin is an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Connecticut who wants to revolutionize the study of the past. An expert on dynamical systems analysis, the Russian-American now aspires to paint big-picture history using big data, devising mathematical models to test social science theories empirically. On an extended visit to Toulouse, he met up with Mohamed Saleh, assistant professor at TSE and the IAST where he also directs the history program, who combines novel data sources, economic theory and empirical methods to examine Middle Eastern economic history. Their intriguing discussion of the evolution of inequality, war and human cooperation suggests we have much to gain from the debate on whether history can be treated as a ‘science’.
What Ancient History Has to Say About Near Future Doom by Ned Resnikoff (IB Times)
University of Connecticut professor Peter Turchin has described that mismatch as a problem of “elite overproduction,” the process by which a growing number of elites got thrown into competition over a proportionally shrinking number of trophies. He says that phenomenon didn’t just help bring down the Roman Republic; it also contributed to the onset of the American Civil War, along with countless other historical calamities.
Has ritual human sacrifice shaped societies and class systems? by Colin Barras (New Scientist)
Peter Turchin at the University of Connecticut thinks the new analysis misses a broader point, because the Austronesian cultures are all relatively small, lacking the complexities of larger societies around the world. “Human sacrifice is actually a maladaptive cultural trait,” he says.
Turchin is a member of a team analysing the global history of social and political organisation. Their preliminary results show that extreme inequality – characterised by traits including human sacrifice and slavery – is a stage that cultures quickly grow out of as they develop.
This is because extreme inequality leaves societies weaker and more likely to be destroyed in wars than societies with more egalitarian structures.
“Its all relative: these ‘egalitarian’ societies still have nobles and lords,” says Turchin. “But they have dispensed with the most extreme forms of inequality including human sacrifice.”
Bryan Callen Show: Ep194 – Peter Turchin: Transforming History Into Science
The American empire is crumbling because the aristocracy is leaving the commoners in the dust by Charles Hugh Smith for Business Insider
New evidence: Easter Island civilization was not destroyed by war by Annalee Newitz (Ars Technica)
Review of “Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth” by Cameron Murray (The Evolution Institute)
Professor Turchin’s new book Ultrasociety identifies the causal mechanisms hidden in the twists and turns of human civilisation by quantifying the rise and fall of empires. The book translates some of Turchin’s academic work on cliodynamics, making it accessible to the interested lay reader.
2 overlooked characteristics of an empire in decline by Charles Hugh Smith (Business Insider)
The Forum (BBC): Hierarchy
The principle of top down hierarchy seems extraordinarily resilient in human societies. But why have we come to organise ourselves this way? Is it to be more efficient and effective? Or, is it because some people will always be driven by instinctive greed and desire for power?
Bridget Kendall talks to professor Peter Turchin, a biologist trying to trace the hidden dynamics of history, Anja Kanngieser, a social geographer who is interested in alternative networks which link us horizontally, and political cartoonist Martin Rowson, an artist whose work would founder without the rich and the powerful to poke fun at.
This is why we’re so f*cked: Our politics are only going to get worse byfor Salon
We’d like to be optimistic. But Democrats’ demographic dream is just that. We’ll need a nightmare for real change
International Relations in a Time of Accelerating Dynamic Instability by Lawrence Husick (Foreign Policy Institute)
Professor Peter Turchin, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Connecticut has attempted to apply the analytical tools of evolutionary science to explain the demographic cycles that contribute to political instability and the breakdown of states that lead to wars.
Historians of the Future Discuss “Earthquake Zones” of Societies (in Russian).
Le printemps arabe, une révolution pour l’élite? par Dominique Baillard/RFI
En fait personne n’a été capable de prévoir ces révolutions. Il est impossible de repérer l’étincelle qui va faire exploser la cocotte. En revanche, on peut mesurer la pression dans la marmite, et voir si elle est corrélée à un certain nombre de facteurs socio-économiques. C’est ce que le chercheur américain Peter Turchin a fait en construisant son modèle dans le pays qu’il connaissait le mieux, les Etats-Unis.
Can Math Be Used to Better Understand History? Peter Turchin, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut, is doing just that through complex mathematical algorithms. Listen to his Academic Minute on WAMC – Northeast Public Radio
The Philosophy of Russell Brand. BBC Radio 4 Analysis program interviews me, among others, in this piece on “anarcho-populism.”
Are You Ready for 2020? Dave Ross of CBS Radio discusses the implications of my research on the structural-demographic dynnamics in the USA
“We are, right now, climbing that inequality curve and all the signs are there: low taxes on the rich and low wages for workers. And there’s another warning sign: a rising number of wealthy, educated elites competing for a fixed number of high political offices. The stiffer the competition, the more ruthless they become.”
America is Vulnerable to a Peak of Instability in 2020. Rossiyskaya Gazeta the text (in Russian)
The maths that saw the US shutdown coming (The New Scientist)
“Turchin finds that a simple mathematical model, combining economic output per person, the balance of labour demand and supply, and changes in attitudes towards redistributing wealth – the minimum wage level is one proxy for this – generates a curve that exactly matches the change in real wages since 1930, including complex rises and falls since 1980. Such close agreement between model and reality is exceptional in social sciences, says Turchin, and shows that all three factors control the rise of inequality, as predicted.”
Publicity around our PNAS paper on War and Space: the Evolution of Complex Societies
Nature: Empires, bureaucracies and religion arise from war. Computer simulation shows that conflict fuelled political consolidation in ancient and medieval history. link
The New Scientist: Real-world Civilisation game shows impact of war link
Los Angeles Times: Scientists use math — and computer war games — to show how society evolved link
Wired: Data Geeks Say War, Not Agriculture, Spawned Complex Societies link
Huffington Post: War Fueled Evolution Of Institutions & Societies, Math Model Suggests link
Yahoo! News: War has been “creative force” behind civilisation, scientists claim link
Smithsonian Mag: 3,000 Years of Human History, Described in One Set of Mathematical Equations link
The Conversation: Computer simulations reveal war drove the rise of civilisations link
Pacific Standard: Count on War to Build a Society link
Popular Mechanics: Can Math Predict the Rise and Fall of Empires? link
DeRedaktie.be: War sowed the seeds of empires, bureaucracy and religion (in Flemish) link (this is one of the main Belgian TV channels)
Spektrum.de: State building: Researchers simulate world history (in German) link
Publico.pt: Mathematical model helps retracing 3000 years of human history (in Portuguese) link
Wiener Zeitung: History may be predictable: Researchers use mathematics to explore the emergence of empires (in German) link
de Volkskrant: A game of Risk, but seriously (in Dutch) link
SINC: A mathematical model proves that the war has been an engine of cultural evolution (in Spanish) link
Elementy.ru: The theory of cultural multilevel selection calculates where and when empires should appear (in Russian) link
Gazeta.ru: Scientists Play ‘Civilization’ (in Russian) link
RIA Novosti: Military innovations turned out to be the engine of the evolution of civilizations link
ITAR-TASS: Russian scientists built a mathematical model of the history of the ancient world link
Daily Mail: How 3,000 year age of empires was recreated by a simple equation: Scientists show how math can predict historical trends with 65% accuracylink
Red Orbit: Mathematical Simulation Accurately Predicts Rise Of Complex Societies link
A two part article was published about Cliodynamics in French by Rémi Sussan on Internet Actu.
Corriere della Sera: Il matematico che vuole prevedere il futuro
The mathematician who wants to predict the future. Peter Turchin’s wager: extract data from the past and sketch the evolution of history. He invented a new discipline: cliodynamics, inspired by the books of Asimov.
Wired: Mathematicians predict the future with data from the past
In Isaac Asimov’s classic science fiction saga Foundation, mathematics professor Hari Seldon predicts the future using what he calls psychohistory. Drawing on mathematical models that describe what happened in the past, he anticipates what will happen next, including the fall of the Galactic Empire. That may seem like fanciful stuff. But Peter Turchin is turning himself into a real-life Hari Seldon — and he’s not alone.
Quantitative History Makes a Comeback: Historians Argue for a Scientific Study of the Past by Marc Parry in the Chronicle of Higer Education
Numbers illuminate the shape of history. That’s a core belief of the Stanford archaeologist and historian Ian Morris, and his book Why the West Rules—for Now puts it into practice by quantifying the development of different societies. But he’s hardly the only one. A growing crop of scholars share Morris’s science-steeped, big-picture approach to the past. And while his book relies on simple mathematics, others go further. They aspire to capture history in equations. And they want to use math to predict how the future might play out, given different assumptions about factors like population growth or climate change. “There are people much weirder than me out there,” says Morris.
Among the most prominent of these is Peter Turchin, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut.
NWT Magazine (Netherlands): Het ritme van sociale onrust
The rhythm of social unrest. Historians have nothing to do with the idea that history repeats itself. Yet some mathematicians see clear patterns in historical developments. It is even possible to extend the patterns into the future.
Superinteressante (Brazil): O império americano corre perigo
American empire in danger. Around 2020, USA should face the highest political instability in its recent history. And there is no Mayan prophecy behind that, but numbers. That’s cliodynamics, a science of history that studies economics, demography and sociology.
PostNauka (Russia): Клиодинамика.
Peter Turchin talks about Cliodynamics, the method of proxies, explaining history, and the dynamics of spread of religions.
Radio Slovenia: Okoli leta 2020 pričakujte izbruh socialnih nemirov
Cliodynamics is a science that analyzes history with mathematical models. Around 2020, expect an outbreak of social unrest.
BBC: Can you predict a revolution? (my interview)
We are eight years away from revolution: that is according to the science of cliodynamics. This is the analysis of rise and fall of empires using mathematical tools to come up with laws of history. This theoretical approach has been pioneered by Professor Peter Turchin of the University of Connecticut. He told the Today programme’s business presenter, Simon Jack, what generally preceded revolution or war. “It’s the elites that cause civil wars” he explained. “When the elites become disgruntled and start infighting between themselves… that’s what causes the problems.”
NewScientist: Calculated violence: Numbers that predict revolutions
PETER TURCHIN thinks he can see the future. Unlike the fortune teller you might find at a seaside carnival, he needs no crystal ball. Instead, the tools of his trade are mathematics and testable theories. Armed with these, his goal is nothing less than to revolutionise the study of history, turning it from a mass of anecdotes into a rigorous, predictive science.
Vice.com: 2012 Is Bullshit; 2020 Is When We’ll Really Be in Trouble
Peter Turchin is a Russian-American scientist who specializes in population biology and devises theories, backed by cumulative scientific evidence, that, in their essence, predict the future by tracking “temporally varying processes and the search for causal mechanisms” throughout history. He calls his field of study “cliodynamics,” after Clio, the Greek Muse of history, and it’s been getting a lot of attention lately following an article about his research in the science journal Nature.
Circa 1870, the North fought the South in the Civil War. Half a century later, around 1920, worker unrest, racial tensions and anti-Communist sentiment caused another nationwide upsurge of violence. Then, 50 years later, the Vietnam War and Civil Rights Movement triggered a third peak in violent political, social and racial conflict. Fifty years after that will be 2020. If history continues to repeat itself, we can expect a violent upheaval in the United States in a few years.
Panorama.it: Ribellioni e sangue negli Usa dal 2020: lo prevede un matematico
Rebellions and blood in the U.S. by 2020: so predicts a mathematician. Peter Turchin, inventor of cliodynamics, wants to turn history into an exact science. He forecasts an increase in political violence in the United States.
News Feature in Nature on Human Cycles: History as Science by Laura Spinney
“Turchin’s approach — which he calls cliodynamics after Clio, the ancient Greek muse of history — is part of a groundswell of efforts to apply scientific methods to history by identifying and modelling the broad social forces that Turchin and his colleagues say shape all human societies. It is an attempt to show that “history is not ‘just one damn thing after another’”, says Turchin, paraphrasing a saying often attributed to the late British historian Arnold Toynbee.”
Cultural Evolution of Pants
Historical Dynamics (in Russian: Историческая динамика) by Valery Tyrnov
An article about cliodynamics in the Russian popular science journal Science and Technology. PDF
Die Presse on Cliodynamics
The influential Austrian newspaper Die Presse discusses cliodynamics based 0n materials posted on this site and uses our PNAS article as an example of how one might do history as science.
Die Presse article (in German)
Our PNAS Article on Roman Censuses and Coin Hoards in the Popular Press
Several major world newspapers discussed our results: New York Times (USA), Spiegel (Germany), Standaard (Belgium), and Folha de S. Paulo (Brazil). Other media that discussed it include N-TV (the German TV channel for financial news), ORF (Austrian Public TV), and Echo Moskvy (a Russian radio station). The article in Science includes a rejoinder from a proponent of the high count hypothesis (which we reject in our paper). The story was featured in the science sections of Yahoo, Yahoo-UK, Lenta and Infox (Russia), and EuropaPress (Spain). Other web-based sources that covered the story are Wired,EurekAlert, and NSF News (the latter includes a video interview).
The story also appeared in a variety of popular science magazines and web sites. The ones I know about are: FirstScience, WorldScience, ScienceDaily,e!ScienceNews, Wissenschaft-Online, Epoc, Huscarl, Gallileo, Elementy, and MultKor.
Last, but not least, is our own UConn Today, which perhaps lacks the wide readership of New York Times or Spiegel, but was the only publication that managed not to garble any aspects of the story.
Demography and Political Crises: the Historical Aspect (in Russian: Демография и политические кризисы. Исторический аспект). An on-line interview with Peter Turchin on the web site of the journal Science and Life. The text of the interview is here.
On the Threshold of Great Discoveries (in Russian: На пороге великих открытий). My interview for Science & Technology in the Russian Federation: click here
A Science of History? My talk at the conference Beyond Belief: Candles in the Dark. The video of the talk can be watched here
On the Eve of a Great Revolution (in Russian: Накануне великой революции). My interview in the Expert magazine: click here
Ursachen der Krise: Kollaps aus dem Nichts (Causes of the Crisis: Collapse from Nowhere)
An article in Sueddeutsche Zeitung mentions my work in the context of nonlinear dynamical approaches to the study of collapse.
Cliodynamics in the Blogosphere
“Cliodynamics, a science of history?” a blog by Massimo Pigliucci, with my responses
“Cliodynamics, the rise & fall of empires and asabiya“ a blog on Gene Expression.
Editor’s Summary (Nature, 3 July 2008)
The future of history: Why it needs to become a science
“For much of human history we have plenty of facts. The job of historians is to select and arrange those facts to support a range of subjective interpretations. Peter Turchin thinks that at that rate, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes. Instead, he says, we need unifying theories. We should use the data to construct general explanations, and test them on all the data, not a subset chosen to make a point. To learn from history, first we must make it science.”
Can History Become a Real Science? (in Russian: Может ли история стать настоящей наукой?) A report on my Nature essay by Alexander Markov at the popular science site The Elements. To read, click here
Clio with a Calculator (In Russian: Клио с калькулятором). A news article by Yury Drize in Poisk, the popular science magazine of the Russian Academy of Sciences. To read, click here
Mathematics and History (In Russian: Математика может оценить движущие силы истории и морали). My interview on Radio Liberty.
The Rise and Fall of Empires – Cycles of War, Peace, and Again War (in Polish: Imperiów wzloty i upadki – czyli wojna, pokój i znów wojna): a review by Piotr Tryjanowski in the Polish magazine Nauka (Science) read the text
Commentary on my work in the American Conservative
Steve Sailer argues that multiculturalism doesn’t make vibrant communities but defensive ones. Go to the article
The New Scientist on Overconfidence in War, with my comments
The commentary on Evolution of Cooperative Strategies from First Principles on the German Radio (here)
Commentary on my work in the Russian magazine Politichesky Klass (The Political Class)
Nikolai Rozov discusses the implications of asabiya for modern Russian politics (see the text in Russian)
A very nice review of cliodynamics in the French popular science magazine Sciences et Avenir. The PDF of the article (2.6 MB!) is here.
A review of War and Peace and War in The New Scientist by Mark Buchanan
“Are there ‘laws of history’, patterns or regularities that would let us make predictions? Karl Marx thought he saw a steady progression in history, leading inevitably to a future of world government by the workers. British historian Arnold Toynbee saw cyclic patterns in the rise and fall of civilisations. But most historians today think that Marx and Toynbee were deluded, and that the pursuit of historical laws is, in general, a fool’s errand. Refreshingly, Peter Turchin doesn’t agree.”
Mark Buchanan’s latest book is Small World full text of the review
Publicity associated with War and Peace and War: in TO BHMA (Greece), and Haaretz (Israel).
Advance publicity for War and Peace and War
War and Peace and War is not yet out but is already getting press: in the August 25 issue of the Guardian, Empire of the Sums by Philip Ball. The article was also reprinted by the Sydney Morning Herald, which gave it a rather sensationalist title: The US Collapses: A Scenario. There is also a quick review in the Publishers Weekly (here it is).