Continuity and Change in Socio-Economic Systems
Edited by Elizabeth Garnsey and James McGlade
2. Evolution, diversity and organization Peter Allen, Mark Strathern and James Baldwin INTRODUCTION Throughout this book we are discussing the nature and mechanisms that drive change in the economic, social and spatial structures of human systems. This is often supposed to be quite distinct from the evolution of natural systems, since human intention and intelligence is assumed to constitute a qualitative diﬀerence. However, we shall show that this is not really the case when the complex and emergent nature of systems robs us of predictive power and knowledge, and makes our actions as exploratory as that generated by genetic variation. When we examine models of natural evolution such as those of Evolutionary Stable Strategies (Maynard-Smith 1979), we see that they contain mechanisms of reproduction and mortality whose repeated action over time leads some population types to ﬂourish and others to decline. In other words they are closed models that are only able to discuss single steps in the whole chain of events. These models of evolution do not ask where new ‘behaviours’ come from, but simply show that, if several are present, then under competition some will grow at the expense of others. The idea is that, in the natural world that surrounds us, such eliminations have already occurred, and what we see is the ‘outcome’ of such a process, all the marvellously adapted, mutually interdependent behaviours of living creatures. Behind this is the idea of evolution as an optimizing ‘force’, which has led to the retention of the...
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