EP 190 Peter Turchin on Cliodynamics and End Times

Jim talks with Peter Turchin about the field he founded, cliodynamics, which applies the scientific method to history. They discuss the meaning & origins of cliodynamics, distinguishing cliodynamics from previous approaches, regularizing historical data, the interface between models & data, average height as a proxy for biological well-being, the Seshat data collection project, observed patterns in collapsing societies, the overproduction of elites, relative vs absolute wage, the wealth pump, relative well-being, a top-heavy social pyramid, defining elites, failed aspirant elites as the raw material for radical movements, why lawyers are the most dangerous profession, the Musk-Zuckerman duel as a sign of increased intra-elite competition, the issue of prediction, the intensification of secessionist sentiment in the U.S., how the British Empire avoided the revolutions of 1848, shutting down the wealth pump, increasing minimum wage, the odds that a revolution would be good for society, and much more.

Peter Turchin is a complexity scientist who works in the field of historical social science that he and his colleagues call Cliodynamics. His research interests lie at the intersection of social and cultural evolution,  historical macrosociology, economic history and cliometrics, mathematical modeling of long-term social processes, and the construction and analysis of historical databases. Currently his main research effort is directing the Seshat Databank project (and its offshoot, CrisisDB) which builds and analyzes a massive historical database that enables us to empirically test predictions from theories attempting to explain why and how complex human societies evolved, and why they periodically experience political breakdown.