Why do politicians so often repeat their past mistakes when facing modern economic and political crises? Why does it prove so difficult time and time again to get people from different nationalities, different cultures to work together for the common good? It only brings harm when governments see no value in the lessons of history. Seshat coordinator Peter Turchin says that governments can and should use history as a tool to better understand modern large-scale human cooperation—especially in light of the recent Brexit decision
Turchin recently explained the need to study historical patterns in a post-Brexit world in a recent comment published by Nature. “Getting people to cooperate in very large groups such as the EU is difficult. Understanding how humans have been able to create cooperative societies is also hard, because we cannot readily run experiments. Nevertheless, much progress can be achieved by taking a scientific approach to analysing historical data,” he wrote.
Perhaps we can better understand the struggles of the EU by studying empires of the past, how they formed and why they fell. This is where cliodynamics—studying past patterns to better understand and analyze the present—can play an important role. However, for this approach to be successful, large cooperative research projects like Seshat: Global History Databank must be created to test hypotheses and detect key patterns.
By detecting these patterns and determining the key variables we can determine how the EU should move forward in a post-Brexit world. One hypothesis Turchin would test is the idea of smaller groupings of nations vs. a large all-encompassing EU. In a previous blog post, he used data from the World Values Survey to show that the original six EU members are closer together culturally than the wider EU body.
Testing these sort of ideas using history as our laboratory, we can hope to come to a better understanding of how to get large numbers of people from different backgrounds to come together and stay together, working cooperatively for the benefit of everyone.