Radio Freethinker

Vancouver's Number 1 Skeptical Podcast and Radio Show

Math and History United at Last

Posted by Ethan Clow on May 17, 2012

I came across this TED talk by Jean-Baptiste Michel, he’s a Founding Director of Harvard’s Cultural Observatory, where their research team pioneers the use of quantitative methods for the study of human culture, language and history. His talk is quite interesting, he suggests how you can use mathematical formula’s to understand history. This is by itself not a radical idea as its one of the central premises of Steven Pinker’s book, The Better Angels of our Nature.

And we all know there are trends in history that can be tracked mathematically, nevertheless it is an intriguing idea that the development of human civilization could follow a predictable pattern. The implication for this could be huge. Consider our interest in discovering alien civilizations. What if we could add a deeper understanding of how civilizations develop and plot what age that civilization might be in?

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