August 2, 2012 1:25 PM Subscribe
posted by zarq (60 comments total)
41 users marked this as a favorite
is a Professor of Mathematics, and of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut. For the last nine years, he's been taking the mathematical techniques that once allowed him to track predator–prey cycles in forest ecosystems, and using them to model human history -- a pattern identification process he calls Cliodynamics
. The goal of cliodynamics (or cliometrics) is to turn history into a predictive, analytic science.
By analysing some of the broad social forces that shape transformative events in US society: historical records on economic activity, demographic trends and outbursts of violence, he has come to the conclusion that a new wave of internal strife is already on its way, and should peak around 2020
From the Nature link
Cliodynamics is viewed with deep scepticism by most academic historians, who tend to see history as a complex stew of chance, individual foibles and one-of-a-kind situations that no broad-brush 'science of history' will ever capture. “After a century of grand theory, from Marxism and social Darwinism to structuralism and postmodernism, most historians have abandoned the belief in general laws,” said Robert Darnton, a cultural historian at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in a column written in 1999.
Most think that phenomena such as political instability should be understood by constructing detailed narratives of what actually happened — always looking for patterns and regularities, but never forgetting that each outbreak emerged from a particular time and place. “We're doing what can be done, as opposed to aspiring after what can't,” says Daniel Szechi, who studies early-modern history at the University of Manchester, UK. “We're just too ignorant” to identify meaningful cycles, he adds.
Related, Boston Globe, from 10/11: How Long Will America Last? 'An impossible question, answered with math.
Interview with Turchin at Gene Expression: 10 Questions
Turchin's Blog on the Social Evolution Forum
An opinion piece by Turchin on cliometrics was printed in Nature in 2008, entitled Arise 'cliodynamics'
A blog post
gives a summary and review of "one of the most comprehensive and theoretical books on cliodynamics: Introduction to Social Macrodynamics by Korotayev et al (it’s quite rare, as there’s only a single copy of it in the entire UC library system). The key insight is that world demographic / economic history can be modeled to a high degree of accuracy by just three basic trends: hyperbolic / exponential, cyclical, and stochastic*."