Sergey Gavrilets has a new open-access paper in PNAS, which is getting a great deal of media attention in places like Nature (links below). The paper is entitled, “War, space, and the evolution of Old World complex societies.”
Significance: How did human societies evolve from small groups, integrated by face-to-face cooperation, to huge anonymous societies of today? Why is there so much variation in the ability of different human populations to construct viable states? We developed a model that uses cultural evolution mechanisms to predict where and when the largest-scale complex societies should have arisen in human history. The model was simulated within a realistic landscape of the Afroeurasian landmass, and its predictions were tested against real data. Overall, the model did an excellent job predicting empirical patterns. Our results suggest a possible explanation as to why a long history of statehood is positively correlated with political stability, institutional quality, and income per capita.