War, space, and the evolution of Old World complex societies

In summary, the article discusses the role of intense warfare in driving the development of stable complex societies. The authors present a model that uses cultural evolution mechanisms to predict where and when these societies would have arisen in human history, and find that it aligns well with real data. They also explore other factors such as technology, plague, and distant events, which have had significant impacts on the stability of complex societies throughout history. The article suggests that innovative approaches are necessary when traditional methods no longer work, as seen in the evolution of warfare tactics.
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jim mcnamara

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http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/09/20/1308825110
War, space, and the evolution of Old World complex societies
Peter Turchina, Thomas E. Currieb, Edward A. L. Turnerc, and Sergey Gavrilets

Intense warfare as an explanatory model for driving the development of stable complex societies.

Significance

How did human societies evolve from small groups, integrated by face-to-face cooperation, to huge anonymous societies of today? Why is there so much variation in the ability of different human populations to construct viable states? We developed a model that uses cultural evolution mechanisms to predict where and when the largest-scale complex societies should have arisen in human history. The model was simulated within a realistic landscape of the Afroeurasian landmass, and its predictions were tested against real data. Overall, the model did an excellent job predicting empirical patterns. Our results suggest a possible explanation as to why a long history of statehood is positively correlated with political stability, institutional quality, and income per capita.
 
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  • #2
What is wanted is peace and prosperity; complex societies are one way of obtaining that desired result.

Unfortunately, as history has shown repeatedly, there are other ingredients including technological change, plague, and distant events.

Technology: the taming of the horse and the invention of the chariot destabilized the middle east ~1500 BC.
the mastery of iron smelting ended the late bronze age ~1200 BC

Plague: the Byzantine empire was ravaged by plague during the reign of Justinian, ~550 AD.
the Black Death weakened all of the kingdoms of Europe ~1350 AD, leading to wars all over.

Distant events: troubles in the far east lead to the migration of the Goths from the Ukraine to the Roman borders, soon followed by the Huns. This lead to major changes in all of the "complex systems" of ~400 AD
Religious innovations from the Arabian peninsula, combined with lingering political and social issues lead to the destruction of the Byzantine possessions in the middle east and north Africa, and the complete destruction of the Persian empire.


When it is shown that the old ways no longer work, innovators try new things ... thus trench warfare was used in WW I, but only fox holes were used in WW II: mobility was valued over stationary, defensive lines as attack was shown to be the decisive tactic ... as long as you could sustain the attack, and hold the ground behind your lines.
 

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