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. And if his calculations are correct, the world should be prepared for years of political turmoil that will peak at some point in the next century. The rise and fall of civilisations can be predicted by a simple equation, and our civilisation is in for a fall some time soon. The rise and fall of civilisations can be predicted by a simple equation, and our civilisation is in for a fall some time soon.
On June 23, millions of United Kingdom citizens will vote to leave the European Union. And millions of others will vote to remain. If the leavers win, the UK and EU will begin a methodical divorce that many analysts expect to destabilize the nation and the continent. All of which might happen eventually, no matter what the UK decides. The so-called Brexit vote is the culmination of years of growing disillusionment--mostly from older and working class Britons--with the European Union's trade agreements and open border policies.
This year's events may be a surprise to many Americans, but one scientist predicted predicted the current political, economic and social instability a decade ago. Peter Turchin, a researcher at the University of Connecticut, published a paper in 2010 forecasting that these instabilities would peak around the year 2020. He highlights a rise in public debt, declining real wages, overproduction of graduates and a growing gap between rich and poor. All of these have experienced a spike every 50 years – 1870, 1920 and 1970 – and in the paper, Turchin writes'so another could be due around 2020.' Now that we have entered the year 2020, Turchin revisited his work and found that all of the trends increased after 2010, with the US reaching similar levels that peaked in the late 1960s. This year's events may be a surprise to many Americans, but one scientist predicted predicted the current political, economic and social instability a decade ago.
Are modern societies built on bloody foundations? That is the suggestion of new research into traditional Austronesian cultures. Ritual human sacrifice seems to be key to the emergence of inherited class systems: powerful members of society carried out these killings to control, terrorise and impress the lower ranks. So say Joseph Watts and Russell Gray at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and their colleagues, who browsed ethnographic data for evidence of ritual killing in 93 traditional Austronesian cultures. Other researchers take issue with their methodology and conclusions.
Belief in vengeful gods may have helped humans cooperate across larger societies by uniting distant populations into a cohesive group. How humans started to cooperate on large scales is a long-standing question. To see how religions may have played a role, Joseph Henrich at Harvard University and his colleagues recruited 2228 people from Asia, Africa and South America who practiced Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, animism or ancestor worship. The participants had to play a game where they were given coins to allocate into two cups. The cups had labels that at different times included themselves, a local of the participant's own religious group, another believer but one who lives far away, and a member of a different religion.