EP 237 Simon DeDeo on the Odds of Major Civil Violence

Jim talks with Simon DeDeo about their wager concerning the likelihood of civil violence and mass killings in America in the next decade. They discuss the terms of the wager, the appropriate orders of magnitude, Alex Garland’s Civil War, the American readiness to use violence, honor cultures, the movement from violence to political violence, industrial mass murder, polarization, the one-dimensionality of current elites, basins of attraction, statistical distributions of violence, Rene Girard’s theory of mimetic desire, measuring political distance, the constant motion of contemporary American political views, tribalization around red-blue politics, door-holding & just-so stories, sexual signaling, the unreality of woke debates, accumulating factors that could lead to a brushfire, gun rights, the dilettantism of extremist groups, 3 specific scenarios of inciting conflicts, making sense of a post-ideological world, the question of who rules, and much more.

Simon DeDeo is an Assistant Professor at Carnegie Mellon University in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences, and External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. He is also affiliated with the Cognitive Science program at Indiana University, where he runs the Laboratory for Social Minds. For three years, from 2010 to 2013, he was an Omidyar Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute. He and his collaborators study how people use words and signals, and the ideas they represent, to create a world. They have studied a diverse set of systems that includes the French Revolution, the courtrooms of Victorian London, the research strategies of Charles Darwin, the insurgency of modern-day Afghanistan, the emergent bureaucracy of Wikipedia, the creation of power hierarchies among the social animals, and the collusions and conspiracies of petrol stations in the American Midwest. They combine data from the contemporary world, archives from the deep past, statistical tools from cosmology, and models of human cognition from Bayesian reasoning and information theory to understand how cultures grow, flourish, innovate, and evolve.