Expanding Scale of Human Society
Central to our mission at Science of the Noosphere is an exploration of the modern scientific perspective on how the noosphere evolved and expanded over time, from its origins in small paleolithic human groups to our emerging global civilization. That is the central subject of this conversation between David Sloan Wilson and two experts from different fields, who approach these questions in interestingly complementary ways.
One is Peter Turchin, author of War and Peace and War, who founded the field of Cliodynamics, which uses mathematical modeling of long-term historical processes to look at human history from a more rigorous scientific point of view. It enables more systematic investigation of phenomena such as the rise and fall of empires, population booms and busts, and the spread of religions. Peter was also instrumental in launching Seshat, the global history databank, “founded in 2011 to bring together the most current and comprehensive body of knowledge about human history in one place.” That databank is used to “systematically collects what is currently known about the social and political organization of human societies and how civilizations have evolved over time.”
The other is Daron Acemoglu, co-author with James Robinson of Why Nations Fail. Daron is an economist who focuses on the role of institutions in human life. The field of institutional economics acknowledges that while individuals can be seen as rational actors, several factors—such as information asymmetries, economic and environmental externalities, and difficulties with trust—can distort the workings of the neoclassical icon, the “invisible hand”. These factors must be taken into consideration to understand how society and the economy really work.