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Is There a Physics of Society? January 10-12, 2008, Santa Fe NM
Saturday, January 12, 2008
3:10 - 3:50 Doyne Farmer (homepage)
Social evolution: Where are the barnacles?
Although evolution was originally conceived as a theory that should apply equally well to biology and society, the biological theory has prospered while the social theory has foundered. Is this an indication that evolution is a useful concept for understanding biology but not for society, or is this just an accident of history? Alternatively, perhaps evolution is also valid for social systems, but is just an inherently harder problem? I will outline why I believe that the time is ripe to revisit the task of constructing a theory of social evolution, and present some requirements that need to be met for such a theory to be useful. Finally, I will propose finance as an area where the necessary "barnacles" are there, just waiting to be studied, and present some preliminary results.
Note that by social evolution I do not mean sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, or social Darwinism, which postulate (in diverse styles) interactions of biological evolution and human behavior. Rather I mean the assertion that social constructs evolve under well-defined rules that are driven by descent with variation and selection, using the human substrate as a medium. In my view there are unquestionably interesting interactions between biological and social evolution, but the dominant effect on society is social evolution itself.