Evolutionary Psychology, Memes and the Origin of War

“There is relatively little respected academic work about a science of social prediction, but in the late 1940s to early 1950s science fiction authors Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov (who were often ahead of their time) wrote speculative stories about the concept, Heinlein referring to ‘social psychodynamics’ (Heinlein 1941, 1953) and Asimov calling it ‘Psychohistory’ (Asimov 1951, 1952, 1953). (‘Psychohistory’ has a more recent use that has nothing to do with social prediction.)

In ‘Memetics and the Modular Mind’ (Henson 1987) I wrote about memetics as a path to social prediction, but while memetics provided an epidemic model for the spread of memes (that is, elements of culture), it didn’t develop as a science of social prediction. In retrospect, the focus was too narrow. The scope had to be widened to include the evolved psychology of a meme’s host in order to predict–given particular environmental circumstances–which memes would flourish and which would die out.

The present article proposes an evolutionary psychology based model of social prediction, particularly for wars and related social disruption such as riots and suicide bombers.” (kuro5hin)

Follow the money to follow the virus

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Avian flu spread follows finances: “Thanks to the website www.wheresgeorge.com — which traces the travels of money around the country and around the world — University of California, Santa Barbara researcher Lars Hufnagel has developed a model of how infectious diseases spread locally, from person to person, as well as from city to city.” (Discover)

I have long been aware of ‘Where’s George?’, linked to it here a long time ago, considered it a fun novelty, and actually entered several bills into its database to track. Imagine my surprise to see it put to this innovative use.

The Bias Finders:

“Welcome to the disturbing world of implicit bias, where people’s preferences for racial, ethnic, and other groups lie outside their awareness and often clash with their professed beliefs about those groups. In the past 15 years, most social psychologists have come to agree that implicit biases, also known as unconscious attitudes, play an often-unnoticed role in our lives. Researchers study implicit biases using any of several techniques, such as tracking participants’ feelings and behaviors after subliminally showing them pictures of black or old people.

However, one measure—the Implicit Association Test, or IAT—has proved especially popular.” (Science News)

But a polarizing debate rages around the meaning and the validity of IAT findings.