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Computer simulations suggest war drove the rise of civilizations | Ars Technica


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According to British historian Arnold Toynbee, “History is just one damned thing after another.” But Peter Turchin of the University of Connecticut in Storrs questions this premise and then tries to answer it in a new study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He and his colleagues show history may be deterministic to a certain extent. And their computer simulations show that warfare may have been the main driver behind the formation of empires, bureaucracies, and religions.

Historians may be a bit leery about scientists making this sort of attempt, since history is driven by a complex set of events, some of them seemingly one-time only. But Turchin thinks otherwise. Through an approach he calls cliodynamics (named after Clio, the Greek muse of history), he wants to unravel the past by testing hypotheses against data.

For his latest work, he joined with Thomas Currie, a lecturer in cultural evolution at the University of Exeter. In the new study, they use a computer simulation to model the largest societies in the years between 1500 BCE and 1500 CE.

"...warfare may have been the main driver behind the formation of empires, bureaucracies, and religions."

I thought that was common sense and already accepted fact.