Tracking violence to track historical cycles

riotby NZ Defence Force

Can “cliodynamics” help historians predict future unrest? [Social Science]
[Via io9]

Unlike physicists and chemists, historians have been unable to formulate grand equations or immutable laws. The trends of history, it would seem, are outside the scope of reproducible science.

But a new discipline called “cliodynamics” is looking to change all that. After studying and mapping key indicators of history, University of Connecticut’s Peter Turchin believes that he’s detected consistent cycles in human history — cycles that he argues could actually help us predict the future.

Can “cliodynamics† help historians predict future unrest?

Turchin, a professor of population dynamics, named the new discipline after Clio, the ancient Greek muse of history. He, along with other colleagues, are working to apply scientific methods to history by analyzing broad social forces that impact and shape all human societies.

Writing in Nature, Laura Spinney describes how Turchin’s analysis relies on four main variables: population numbers, social structure, state strength, and political instability. She elaborates:[


While I’d like to know more about the metrics here –how are violent episodes tracked, for example, it fits in quite well with one of my favorite books, The Fourth Turning. That book delineated a four generation cycle of 80-100 years that was needed to fully work our societal problems.

But it had as one of its principles that there were conflicts at each half generation. These conflicts often served to make the final conflict inevitable.

According to the Fourth Turning, written in the late 90s, we are in the middle of the final conflict for the latest cycle, the one that started after WW2 and saw its Second Turning conflict in the 60s.

We are seeing a large number of new conflicts today that are replaying the fights of the 60s – abortion, contraception, etc. I hope we make it through sometime in the next decade. That is about what these cycles would predict.

Reinventing the wheel by ignoring your internal experts

wheelby lusikkolbaskin

Charlie Kindel on Microsoft, the Hardware Company
[Via Daring Fireball]

Charlie Kindel:

I know some of the people who drove the Xbox360 hardware design and supply chain management. They are now war scarred and seasoned experts. They are the type of people you want working on the next big thing. None of them even knew about Surface until it was announced. Typical Microsoft organizational silos.


Microsoft is a software company that makes a couple of successful hardware products.

There are a couple of big differences between hardware and software that are relevant – hardware has to be physically assembled and it has to be physically distributed, neither of which is required for software.

Microsoft has had some real glitches with modern hardware.

Now it talks about competing with the largest high tech company in the world by producing a tablet that it will only sell at its online store and at its own retail Microsoft stores. There are only 29 of these in the world – 26 of them in the US. Hard to see how that will compete with Apple which has 373 stores in 13 countries.

The fact that they did not even connect internally with anyone who had real life experience with assembling and shipping a hardware component is also worrisome.

Rediscovering the wheel is a common problem with large, process driven companies. It can not be something that 21st century companies routinely allow.

Because they will be outflanked by those companies that do not reinvent the wheel, that are much more efficient with their resources.