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Changes in social complexity.

Posted: Sun Oct 23, 2016 11:41 pm
by Lance Kennedy
Reference : New Scientist 15 October 2016, page 40

The referred article is about a computer system for analysing history. But I noted a reference to changes in social complexity** in five different societies in the past. China. Ancient Egypt. Italy (Roman Empire) Pakistan Peru.

What interested me is that social complexity continued to grow, or fell but weakly, despite collapse of empire. It is often stated that societies rise and fall. The Roman Empire is often quoted as the example. But if you measure that society in terms of social complexity, then the falls are actually no big deal. For example, during the rise of empire, Rome's social complexity rose 9 fold, but when Rome fell, its social complexity dropped only 10%.

So this makes the idea of the fall of great empires into something of a myth. The empire may not dominate any more, and its military may not be charging around conquering other nations, but the complexity of its society drops only to a relatively minor degree. Perhaps the idea of the fall is somewhat overstated?

I also note that, over the 6,000 years of the published graph, the trend globally is up and up. The local falls are small, and the average trend is always to more social complexity.

This may have implications for the future. Lots of people, including academics, have this belief that human society will eventually collapse. But the historical trends deny this. If collapses to date have been only small and temporary, why do we believe that there will be a big global collapse some time in the future. It is said that if we do not study history, we are doomed to repeat it. But history over 6,000 years is the history of the rise, rise, and yet more rising of humanity. If we are doomed to repeat that, we are not so badly off.

**Social complexity was measured for these empires using 53 measured markers over time. Such things as population size, number of roles in society, architecture, the use of sophisticated taxation methods, peace treaties with other nations, retention of knowledge in libraries and texts etc.

Re: Changes in social complexity.

Posted: Mon Oct 24, 2016 12:03 am
by bobbo_the_Pragmatist
Interesting idea there. Kinda parallels my first intro to history that "it is more than just military history".... and then we studied almost exclusively the military history... with a poem here and there for balance.

OTOH--if an invading army comes in and you are sold into slavery, I would give your latest complexity a measure of zero.

Re: Changes in social complexity.

Posted: Mon Oct 24, 2016 12:17 am
by Lance Kennedy
bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:
OTOH--if an invading army comes in and you are sold into slavery, I would give your latest complexity a measure of zero.


As an individual, yes. But this measure is for an entire society. Invading armies are a commonplace through history, and rather often, the invaded society just goes right on going. In fact, the invaders may bring more richness to that society in the long run.

Re: Changes in social complexity.

Posted: Mon Oct 24, 2016 12:26 am
by bobbo_the_Pragmatist
Fair call.............or does it throw into perspective "the value" of complexity? Hmmmm....opposed to military history is "social history" and I wonder how much of 99% of peoples lives up until about the 20th century was devoted to farming?...and how much complexity is there in that????

So.... if I were going to pay for access to any website today...it would be Scientific american. In my failure, I'll just have to wonder what "complexity" even means, or what it is worth.

Re: Changes in social complexity.

Posted: Mon Oct 24, 2016 12:50 am
by Lance Kennedy
Bobbo

If you want access to new scientific information, but do not feel wealthy enough to pay a subscription, try the online magazine 'ScienceDaily'. Google it and subscribe for free. It has a lot of good stuff.

Re: Changes in social complexity.

Posted: Mon Oct 24, 2016 1:12 am
by bobbo_the_Pragmatist
Thanks Lance...I often do google Sci Amer article subjects to find the referenced information. Not very much luck there though. Money is one issue...but I'd feel "stupid" to buy a subscription and then not read every word. Right now....I just don't have the time. Ha, ha..... its not my prioritization, and maybe I should. No....... its what I identify in so many "other" people: stuck in a rut.

I'm only hooman.

Re: Changes in social complexity.

Posted: Tue Oct 25, 2016 7:30 am
by TJrandom
Lance Kennedy wrote:... In fact, the invaders may bring more richness to that society in the long run.


Saying this, as our politicians are wont to do just about once a year, hasn`t won Japan many friends in Asia.

Re: Changes in social complexity.

Posted: Tue Oct 25, 2016 7:52 am
by Lance Kennedy
But think of all that Japan brought.
Toyota. Mazda. Sony. Karate. Nintendo. Etcetra.

Re: Changes in social complexity.

Posted: Tue Oct 25, 2016 8:15 am
by bobbo_the_Pragmatist
Oh Lance...you certainly don't mean that societal complexity means mere consumer choice?

Except for karate there, its all "stuff." Is offering a Toyota more complex than just having a chevy? And for that matter, what is karate except a tease for Bruce Li movies which is Sony and VCR's?

Complexity....must mean "culture" to have any worth at all? So..........I'm thinking Japanese Culture. What do we have?

Anime Porn
Used underwear in vending machines
Uncooked sea food
Music suitable for prisoner torture.

Might be more complex.............but its a bad complex as much as I can figure out.

Re: Changes in social complexity.

Posted: Tue Oct 25, 2016 8:50 am
by TJrandom
bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:...

Anime Porn
Used underwear in vending machines
Uncooked sea food
Music suitable for prisoner torture.

Might be more complex.............but its a bad complex as much as I can figure out.


Ah, the finer things in life... :lol:

Re: Changes in social complexity.

Posted: Tue Oct 25, 2016 12:18 pm
by bobbo_the_Pragmatist
I admit, I couldn't come up with much.

Re: Changes in social complexity.

Posted: Tue Oct 25, 2016 6:02 pm
by OlegTheBatty
Lance Kennedy wrote:Reference : New Scientist 15 October 2016, page 40

The referred article is about a computer system for analysing history. But I noted a reference to changes in social complexity** in five different societies in the past. China. Ancient Egypt. Italy (Roman Empire) Pakistan Peru.

What interested me is that social complexity continued to grow, or fell but weakly, despite collapse of empire. It is often stated that societies rise and fall. The Roman Empire is often quoted as the example. But if you measure that society in terms of social complexity, then the falls are actually no big deal. For example, during the rise of empire, Rome's social complexity rose 9 fold, but when Rome fell, its social complexity dropped only 10%.

So this makes the idea of the fall of great empires into something of a myth. The empire may not dominate any more, and its military may not be charging around conquering other nations, but the complexity of its society drops only to a relatively minor degree. Perhaps the idea of the fall is somewhat overstated?

I also note that, over the 6,000 years of the published graph, the trend globally is up and up. The local falls are small, and the average trend is always to more social complexity.

This may have implications for the future. Lots of people, including academics, have this belief that human society will eventually collapse. But the historical trends deny this. If collapses to date have been only small and temporary, why do we believe that there will be a big global collapse some time in the future. It is said that if we do not study history, we are doomed to repeat it. But history over 6,000 years is the history of the rise, rise, and yet more rising of humanity. If we are doomed to repeat that, we are not so badly off.

**Social complexity was measured for these empires using 53 measured markers over time. Such things as population size, number of roles in society, architecture, the use of sophisticated taxation methods, peace treaties with other nations, retention of knowledge in libraries and texts etc.

How did they define 'social complexity'? Unless they defined it, the article isn't worth much.

Re: Changes in social complexity.

Posted: Tue Oct 25, 2016 6:42 pm
by Lance Kennedy
Oleg
The only 'definition' is the 53 points I mentioned. But hopefully, that should give you an idea.

Re: Changes in social complexity.

Posted: Tue Oct 25, 2016 10:02 pm
by OlegTheBatty
Lance Kennedy wrote:Oleg
The only 'definition' is the 53 points I mentioned. But hopefully, that should give you an idea.


OK. Better than nothing, but note that people keep reproducing no matter who is in charge.