The Socio Cultural Evolution Of Our Species Copia


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The history and possible future of human societies and civilization from Jürgen Klüver

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The Socio Cultural Evolution Of Our Species Copia

  1. 1. science & society science & society The socio-cultural evolution of our species The history and possible future of human societies and civilizations Jürgen Klüver M any biologists and social scientists result of evolutionary processes (Klüver, legislative, judicative and executive arms of have noted that with the develop­ 2000). nevertheless, socio­cultural evolu­ government in modern democracies is such ment of human culture, the biologi­ tion did not end biological evolution; in fact, a rule, as is the rule to drive on the right­ cal evolution of Homo sapiens was usurped for most of the time that Homo sapiens has hand side of the road in most countries. in by socio­cultural evolution. the construc­ existed, socio­cultural evolution has been mathematical terms, we can then define tion of artificial environments and social so slow that it could not have affected bio­ a society (S ) using the equation S = (St, C), structures created new criteria for selec­ logical evolution. Here, i attempt to explain where C refers to culture and St refers to tion, and biological fitness was replaced by why modern humans existed long before social structure. ‘cultural fitness’, which is often different for socio­cultural evolution really began. different cultures and is generally not meas­ What does socio­cultural evolution mean? In essence, socio-cultural ured by the number of offspring. Moreover, there have been many attempts to define this the mechanism of socio­cultural evolution ambiguous concept (trigger, 1998), which evolution is ‘Lamarckian’ in nature is different from the model of biological have interpreted the term ‘evolution’ in a lit­ […] because humans are able to evolution that was proposed by charles eral sense and assumed that socio­cultural pass on cultural achievements Darwin (1809–1882), and refined by many evolution is determined by the same mecha­ to the next generation others. in essence, socio­cultural evolution nisms as its biological counterpart. it is true is ‘lamarckian’ in nature—it is an exam­ that the evolution of human societies and cul­ ple of acquired inheritance, as described tures shares some similarities with biological culture and social structure are, of by the French naturalist Jean­Baptiste lamarck evolution, but in many respects these two are course, abstracts that cannot be quantified (1744–1829)—because humans are able not the same. therefore, at the outset, it is nec­ and must instead be translated into empiri­ to pass on cultural achievements to the essary to give a precise definition of evolution cal categories—namely, observable actions next generation. in the field of human societies (Klüver, 2002). by, and interactions of, social actors. in a yet, the idea that cultural fitness has meta­theoretical sense, this transforms the S replaced biological fitness does not fully ocio­cultural evolution, as the name concepts of culture and social structure into take into account the thousands of years of implies, has two dimensions: social an action theory because only individual human biological evolution that occurred and cultural. Some of the great social actors can be the units of an empirical social long before socio­cultural evolution, in theorists of the last century defined ‘culture’ science. the main concepts here are social its strictest sense, took its course. Modern in terms of the generally accepted know­ roles and their occupants. Homo sapiens first appeared about 200,000 ledge of a certain society or social group consider, for example, the social role of years ago; however, socio­cultural evolu­ (Habermas, 1981; giddens, 1984). under a medical doctor. a doctor is characterized tion only began about 10,000 years ago, this definition, ‘knowledge’ is not limited to by his or her knowledge of disease diag­ when early hunter–gatherer societies began natural and social phenomena, but includes, nosis, how to choose appropriate thera­ to change their simple forms of segmentary for example, religion, worldviews and pies and how to tell the patient to follow social differentiation during the so­called moral values. Similarly, ‘accepted’ does not the therapy. However, the role of the doc­ neolithic revolution, which was mainly imply that such knowledge is true accord­ tor is also defined by specific rules—the caused by the invention of agriculture and ing to scientific standards—for example, Hippocratic oath, for example—and by cattle breeding. in mathematical terms, one the Judaeo­christian belief that god cre­ specific laws about how to treat patients, could say that human biological evolution ated the world—but only that it is accepted or how to adhere to health insurance or created an attractor: a stable state impervious within one culture as ‘true’. the definition of national regulations. Similarly, the role of to change. Various mathematical models ‘social’ naturally refers to social structures. a university professor is defined by specific of biological evolution, namely the genetic ‘Social’ can be defined as the set of rules scientific knowledge and specific rules of algorithm (Holland, 1975), show that the that govern all social interactions in a cer­ interaction with respect to, for example, generation of such an attractor is the usual tain society. the separation of power into teaching, publishing and dealing with ©2008 EuropEan MolEcular Biology organization EMBo reports Vol 9 | SpEcial iSSuE | 2008 S 5 5
  2. 2. science & society sp e cial issue university administration. We can therefore entrepreneurs, for example—are defined by freedom than those in rival societies (Klüver, define a social role (r) as r = (k, ru), where ‘creative tasks’, which expand the culture 2002; needham, 1970). in particular, the k is the role­specific knowledge and ru of society. cultural evolution is therefore large trading cities of the Hanse, the Flemish represents the role­specific rules of social only possible if the occupants of creative cities and the cities of northern italy were interaction (Berger & luckmann, 1966). roles enjoy a certain degree of freedom. centres of cultural growth with a certain an individual in a society is a social on the other hand, there are roles—those political autonomy. this environment gave actor when he or she occupies a specific of priests, politicians or teachers, for exam­ the occupants of creative social roles the social role, which is not necessarily a pro­ ple—that serve to maintain social tradi­ benefit of greater freedom from the feudal fessional role. there are other social roles tions, culture and social structures. We can political powers and the catholic church. such as being a parent or being a member call these ‘maintenance roles’ in contrast to this political and social structure had no of a political party, and it is relatively easy the ‘creative roles’. these are essential for parallels in the other great cultures. to define the social rules and role­specific the integration of a society because tradi­ o knowledge of these positions. therefore, we tional norms and values allow a society to n the basis of this hypothesis, our can define a society as a web of social roles, maintain its societal identity. research group constructed math­ the occupants of which interact according the crucial factor for the evolutionary ematical models of socio­cultural to the rules and to the knowledge that define potential of a society, then, is the relation­ evolution, the so­called socio­cultural these roles. a society is then produced ship between creative roles and mainte­ algorithm (Sca) and the expanded socio­ and reproduced through the role­specific nance roles. if the maintenance roles have cultural cognitive algorithm (Scca). these interactions of the role occupants. in many a strong influence on the creative roles, are multi­agent systems that consist of arti­ cases, the social structure and culture of a the occupants of creative roles cannot ful­ ficial actors. Each actor is represented by a society merely reproduce—that is, they do fil their creativity and the development of combination of different neural nets, and not change notably. yet, sometimes roles culture stagnates; a society gets caught in a the social relations between the actors are and interactions change markedly, and the cultural evolutionary attractor. the relation­ modelled by a cellular automaton and a social structure and culture change accord­ ship between these two classes of roles is Boolean net (Klüver, 2002; Klüver et al, ingly. Such times are called periods of the decisive parameter for the evolution­ 2003). Each actor is able to occupy a certain reform or—in the extreme—revolutions. ary power of a society, which can be called social role, can learn from others and can an evolutionary parameter (Ep) and deter­ generate new ideas—of course, in an ideal­ mines the evolutionary fate of a society. ized and simplified manner. the sum of all …for most of the time that the ultimately unsuccessful attempts of the the ideas that these actors generate is the Homo sapiens has existed, catholic church to silence proponents of level of the respective culture. according socio-cultural evolution has been the heliocentric model of the planetary sys­ to the general evolutionary hypothesis, so slow that it could not have tem—most notably giordano Bruno (1548– the actors, if they occupy a creative role, affected biological evolution 1600) and galileo galilei (1564–1642)—is develop new ideas in proportion to the an example of an unfavourable Ep. a society influence of the occupants of maintenance must have a certain degree of heterogeneity roles. We ran the models with different now that we have defined what we with respect to the existence of different Ep values and different numbers of actors mean by a society—based on culture and roles and the social ‘distance’ between the ranging from 100 to more than 1,000,000. social structure—we can define socio­ two kinds of roles. if a society is too homo­ one important result was that the number cultural evolution as the creation and geneous, socio­cultural evolution will stop of actors had no significant impact on the change of social roles through new know­ sooner or later. results—the evolutionary logic operated in ledge that changes and creates social rules. looking at historical examples can vali­ small or large artificial societies. Socio­cultural evolution, then, alters and date this general hypothesis about the logic enlarges a society in the two dimensions of socio­cultural evolution. Starting in the of social structure and culture. the driving fourteenth century, the European nations Social roles in a societal system force is new ideas in the cultural dimen­ entered a period characterized by reforms, therefore “become the equivalent sion and the ensuing changes to the social revolutions and scientific progress—known of genes in a genetic system”... structure that create new social rules of respectively as the renaissance, the interaction. Social roles in a societal sys­ reformation and the Enlightenment—and tem therefore “become the equivalent of eventually evolved into modern Western one typical result that we observed was genes in a genetic system” (read, 2005); societies. the technological and social a so­called toynbee development, named however, this is only a formal equivalence, competitors of Europe during the Middle after the British historian arnold toynbee as the evolutionary mechanisms in these ages—notably feudal china and the islamic (1889–1975) who showed that this is the fate cases operate differently. societies—did not change in the same way of all known cultures (toynbee, 1934–39; because they did not have the Ep values of Fig 1). this artificial culture grows quickly but W hen we speak of social roles, European societies, despite the fact that eventually slows down and stagnates. Most we must make an important they were culturally and scientifically more Ep values led to this development in our distinction. on the one hand, advanced than feudal Europe. the main rea­ simulations, which shows, at least in part, some social roles—those of artisans, crafts­ son for this was that the occupants of creative the significance of Ep values and provides an people, artists, technicians, scientists or roles in Europe enjoyed a larger degree of explanation for the historical processes. S5 6 EMBo reports Vol 9 | SpEcial iSSuE | 2008 ©2008 EuropEan MolEcular Biology organization
  3. 3. sp e c i a l i s su e science & society only a few evolutionarily favourable Ep values were able to generate a different image (Fig 2). in these cases, the artificial culture did not stop, but was able to continue to advance 0.25 Deviation from requirements (sys) its cultural growth for as long as it existed. 2,000 this might be the fate of Western culture, as Total knowledge (ptot) its growth, particularly in science and tech­ ptot 0.20 sys nology, shows no detectable limits at present. 1,500 again, the reason for this is the decisive role 0.15 of the Ep and the relatively large degree of 1,000 freedom that the occupants of creative roles 0.10 enjoy in the West. in addition, we assume that the Ep values themselves changed dur­ 500 0.05 ing European cultural development because the current values are even more favour­ 0 0.00 able than those during the Medieval ages. in other words, the Ep values start a process 0 500 1,000 1,500 2,000 of socio­cultural evolution and are them­ Time steps selves changed by this process—an evolution of evolution. Fig 1 | A Toynbee development. t he general hypothesis about socio­ cultural evolution, the historical data and our simulations can apparently explain human history as an evolutionary 5,000 0.8 process. in particular, they can explain the Deviation from requirements (sys) special path of European and, subsequently, 4,000 Total knowledge (ptot) Western culture. they might also answer the 0.6 question raised at the beginning of this article: 3,000 why did it take such a long time before socio­ cultural evolution started at the beginning of 0.4 the neolithic revolution? 2,000 Early hunter–gatherer societies, or seg­ mentary differentiated tribal societies as they 1,000 0.2 are called in sociology, are homogeneous. ptot there is little differentiation of social roles, 0 sys which are mostly based on gender and age. 0.00 the creative potential of these early humans 0 500 1,000 1,500 2,000 could not unfold; small degrees of labour Time steps division did not allow for special roles and a common worldview of animistic religions Fig 2 | A Western development. further hindered individual thinking. it took a long time for these societies to become sufficiently heterogeneous to generate the creative achievements of the neolithic processes to generate a sufficiently hetero­ of mankind. Will the process of globalization revolution, which, in turn, changed the geneous society that could move to the next lead to a world culture that is characterized social structure of societies. the segmen­ step in the evolutionary process. in other by the Western way? in theoretical sociol­ tary differentiated societies became strati­ words, the neolithic revolution could only ogy, we call this the hypothesis of univer­ fied into social hierarchies and allowed a take place when some societies were suf­ sal modernization, which implies that only significant division of labour. yet it took a ficiently differentiated to allow for individ­ Western societies are truly modern ones long time to achieve this stage of socio­ ual creative processes. Moreover, it can be and that the process of modernization will cultural evolution—and many tribal societies assumed that the initial Ep values of the tribal change all societies until they become mod­ did not reach it at all—because only small societies did not significantly change with the ern in the Western sense, albeit with local processes of differentiation took place and slow growth of human culture. variants. this classical hypothesis dates back creative individuals could only slowly create to the Enlightenment, and was formulated in t new ideas in their respective society. the long he decisive question is, of course, its most influential form by the social theo­ period of time between the biological emer­ whether this model of socio­cultural rists Karl Marx (1818–1883) and Max Weber gence of Homo sapiens and the neolithic evolution can help us to make some (1864–1920). of course, the universal mod­ revolution was necessary to allow these slow educated guesses about the possible future ernization hypothesis was, and still is, much ©2008 EuropEan MolEcular Biology organization EMBo reports Vol 9 | SpEcial iSSuE | 2008 S 5 7
  4. 4. science & society sp e cial issue discussed and criticized, in particular for that are now visible in developing coun­ in any case, the future of our species being Eurocentric. one of the most famous tries were seen previously in Europe and depends on more factors than can be cov­ critiques was made by the american politi­ north america as they progressed towards ered in this article. yet, the social future of cal scientist Samuel Huntington in his best­ modern Western culture. mankind is probably a global society based seller The Clash of Civilizations (Huntington, on the traditions of Western societies with a 1996). although i cannot discuss this and lthough there are certainly other local adaptations. neither china nor india other criticisms of the modernization hypo­ factors at work, this selection will become a mirror of the uSa, but simi­ thesis for reasons of space, i can provide shows that many countries that larly neither germany nor France is such empirical data to validate the hypothesis, are on their way to modernization follow a mirror. in the end, i believe, Marx and and make a methodical proposal based on the path of Western societies. Even politi­ Weber will be proved right. the model of socio­cultural evolution and cally regressive processes, for example the the Scca program. rise of islamic theocracies, are expected— rEFErEncES Berger p, luckmann t (1966) The Social Construction indeed, European countries experienced of Reality. new york, ny, uSa: Doubleday regressive fascist movements or periods of giddens a (1984) The Constitution of Society. …the social future of mankind stagnation. Modernization as a form of socio­ Outlines of the Theory of Structuration. is probably a global society based cultural evolution is not a linear process. as cambridge, uK: polity press on the traditions of Western Habermas J (1981) Theorie des Kommunikativen a preliminary summary, it seems that Marx, Handelns, Vol. 2. Frankfurt am Main, germany: societies with local adaptations Weber and the other adherents of the uni­ Suhrkamp versal modernization theory are right. at Holland Jr (1975) Adaptation in Natural and least, the data are more compatible with the Artificial Systems. ann arbor, Mi, uSa: university of Michigan press the European, and eventually Western, universalistic theory of modernization than Huntington Sp (1996) The Clash of Civilizations. process of modernization is characterized with its rivals. new york, ny, uSa: Simon & Schuster by certain economic, political, educational Furthermore, our Scca model provides Klüver J (2000) The Dynamics and Evolution of Social and gender­based criteria that are indica­ support for this theory. the theoretical founda­ Systems. New Foundations of a Mathematical tors of modern development. if we apply tion of the model is the assumption that socio­ Sociology. Dordrecht, the netherlands: Kluwer Klüver J (2002) An Essay Concerning Sociocultural these criteria to the developmental proc­ cultural evolution depends on an increasing Evolution. Theoretical Principles and Mathematical esses in different countries, we can detect degree of role autonomy in important social Models. Dordrecht, the netherlands: Kluwer astonishing parallels to Western history domains. in particular, this assumption can Klüver J, Malecki r, Schmidt J, Stoica c (2003) (oesterdiekhoff, 2003). the economical explain the fact that the process of moderni­ Sociocultural evolution and cognitive ontogenesis. a sociocultural cognitive algorithm. relevance of the agrarian sector is decreas­ zation emerged in Europe before it became Comput Math Organ Theor 9: 255–273 ing in developing countries, even in africa, the core of Western culture. if these theoreti­ needham J (1970) Clerks and Craftsmen in China whereas industry is gaining in importance. cal and mathematical assumptions are cor­ and the West. cambridge, uK: cambridge the same trend is valid for urbanization rect, the validity of the universalistic theory university press processes: in all developing countries, of modernization—the question of the final oesterdiekhoff gW (2003) Entwicklung der Weltgesellschaft. Hamburg, germany: lit the rural population is decreasing as large socio­cultural character that will result from read D (2005) change in the form of evolution. cities emerge, just as happened in Europe globalization processes—can be analysed in transitions from primate to hominid forms of in the eighteenth century. in most places, a twofold manner. social organization. J Math Sociol 29: 91–114 birth rates are also steadily declining—a Empirical data from developing coun­ toynbee a (1934–39) A Study of History (12 Vols). oxford, uK: oxford university press trend that has been observed in Western tries indicate that there is a growing trend trigger Bg (1998) Sociocultural Evolution. New countries since the nineteenth century. in favour of role autonomy—again referring Perspectives on the Past. oxford, uK: Blackwell the mean marriage age of women is ris­ to gender roles and the rise of higher educa­ ing, which is certainly one cause of the tion. overall, women are becoming more decline in the birth rate and an impor­ autonomous, and education is emancipating tant indicator of an increasing degree of itself from religious and political influences female autonomy. the average number in developing countries. again, women’s of democratic or semi­democratic socie­ rights and the introduction of universal ties is increasing—in which ‘democratic’ education marked important points in the means adopting the Western model of a history and development of Western coun­ parliamentary democracy. the levels of tries. Such data can then be inserted into literacy and the number of participants in simulations, such as our Sca or Scca, to higher education are increasing in most predict roughly the probable development Jürgen Klüver is Professor of Information countries, and many rapidly developing of these countries. clearly, even such micro­ Technologies and Educational Processes countries are investing massively in science sociologically based simulation programs at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. and technology—not only large nations can only give predictions about probable E-mail: such as china and india, but also various developments, but this is still better than a South american countries. all of the trends ‘best guess’ or wishful thinking. doi:10.1038/embor.2008.35 S5 8 EMBo reports Vol 9 | SpEcial iSSuE | 2008 ©2008 EuropEan MolEcular Biology organization