The study of cliodynamics may help us avert future social unrest if we can just make it to the ‘future.’
By Shish KaBob Seger
Photo by Florian Olivo
A pair of scientists from the University of Connecticut are using complex math and historical data to analyze the current social unrest facing the U.S. The discipline, known as ‘cliodynamics’, is the mathematical modeling of socio-historical processes. Though the events the U.S. has endured in recent days may seem ‘impromptu’, the historical record and sophisticated math may shed some light on why and when these things happen.
The same pair of scientists, Peter Turchin and Andrey Korotayev, are credited with predicting the political instability that began in 2010 which continues across the globe today.
The University of Connecticut scientists use an innovative mathematical theory that hints at when societies will face social and political unrest. Here in the United States, their theories intimate that violent uprisings will occur every 50 years.
Referred to by scientists as ‘structural-demographic theory’ (SDT), the process is said to precisely anticipate the arrival of social upheaval in a given society. In a recently published report in the journal PLoS ONE, Turchin and Korotayev describe how mathematical analysis can actually foresee historical events.
To develop these prescient theories, analysts develop a historical hypothesis using records and trends. Varying considerations are calculated and prognosis is created. Analysts then compare and contrast these predictions with verifiable history. Mathematical modeling of socio-historical processes can then be deduced from repetitive patterns. nAccording to the report, social unrest in American streets is part and parcel of a predictable pattern. These intervals of social upheaval occur in mathematical benchmarks throughout human history. The inceptive 2010 study demonstrates intervals of social upheaval in the U.S. occurring 1870s, 1920s, and 1970s. Clockable 50-year cycles serve as a building of pressure and subsequent release valve. The two cliodynamics experts contend that these windows of social upheaval typically last for a duration between 10 and 15 years.
According to Study Finds, “SDT was developed by American sociologist and historian Jack Goldstone. Using math, the theory was first applied to historical processes in order to see which forces interact and lead to riots, revolutions, and civil wars. While overpopulation causes daily life to crumble, the model says the financial and social elite begin taking sides. Some of these people will side with protesters against the current social system they have prospered in while others continue supporting the government. Goldstone’s models show all these factors end with an eruption of violence and even civil war in some nations.”
According to Turchin and Korotayev, historical models demonstrate that social unrest is far more virulent than it was 50 years ago. The ensuing worldwide pandemic is more than likely exacerbating the existing societal fault lines.
The scientists hope political leaders can use cliodynamics to predict social unrest and make subsequent reforms to circumvent future crises. What we have in store for 2070 is sure to be frightening.