The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

This Could Be Good... Or Bad

Every so often, something pops up that seems to be a "Well... duh!" revelation. On the other hand, closer scrutiny reveals that it is something else again.

This is one of those:

New Math Model Predicts Evolution of Large Complex Human Societies

The thing that seems "Well... duh!" is this:

"Intense warfare is actually the evolutionary driver of large, complex societies."

People tend to look at me funny when I say that war actually has benefits. I mean beyond enriching some at the cost of turmoil and devastation. For example, we learn much about about medicine, especially what we call "trauma medicine", from war. This translates rather well into dealing with natural, and man-made, disasters. War death numbers are shrinking rapidly due to our evolving ability to transport and treat trauma victims and also due to moves toward accuracy in targeting plus better physical protection. But these also help us when we encounter large natural disasters.

I have come to the conclusion that all things evolve, even complex artificial structures such as societies. Societies, to me, are actually natural evolutions from primitive social structures. And it appears that war is an important factor in that evolution. Something I felt to be true  for a long time.

Now mathematicians have developed a formula which describes societal evolution. It must be a fascinating formula as complex as the societies it explains. For how do you assign variables unless you know what are? How do you assign the proper power to each of these variables?

Will this formula help explain why and how some societies rise while others tumble? Will it explain the Roman Empire?

There is a series of novels by Isaac Asimov ("Foundation") wherein this mathematical formula was posited.

The premise of the series is that the mathematician Hari Seldon spent his life developing a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory, a concept of mathematical sociology (analogous to mathematical physics). Using the laws of mass action, it can predict the future, but only on a large scale; it is error-prone on a small scale. It works on the principle that the behaviour of a mass of people is predictable if the quantity of this mass is very large (equal to the population of the galaxy, which has a population of quadrillions of humans, inhabiting millions of star systems). The larger the number, the more predictable is the future.

There was another novel, one that I read back in the early 60's I think (though I no longer recall its name), which spoke of a similar thing. Though it concerned a schism between those who felt things were random and those who accepted a kind of predestination. Dice rolls vs mathematical probability, if you will.

Fascinating. Humans are curious creatures, they want to understand just about everything. Probably in the hopes of controlling it. How will having this formula impact our future?

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