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Mathematically Modeling the Spread of Complex Societies

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Peter Turchin (University of Connecticut) and colleagues present a mathematical model that replicates with 65 percent accuracy historical trends in the spread of large-scale, complex societies.

The researchers found that conflict between societies and the development of military technology were the most important factors influencing which civilizations blossomed into empires.

Although thrilled with the success of his team's model, Turchin acknowledges its limits:

Differences in culture, environmental factors and thousands of other variables not included in the model all have effect. A simple general model should not be able to capture actual history in all its glorious complexity.

Read Smithsonian's coverage.

Start Date: 
Monday, October 14, 2013