Equality, hierarchy, oligarchy: Model-driven investigation of the evolutionary origins of social organization - School of Computing Seminar Series

The range of social organization exhibited by human groups is astonishingly wide and diverse. Yet a manifest trend is that larger and more productive groups shift from distributed to centralized power and later on, despotism. This trend is best illustrated by the sudden and global transition from egalitarian groups to hierarchical societies that occurred with the advent of agriculture. The drivers behind these transitions have been proven hard to identify, mainly because hierarchy requires the paradoxical evolution of exploited followers. The “iron law of oligarchy” proposes that (i) hierarchy emerge as a solution to high costs of coordination in large groups, and then develop into (ii) despotism because leaders control information flow and blind followers’ justice. However, this scenario hasn’t been yet explored in an evolutionary framework because of a lack of a model linking individual behaviours and group organization. To fill this gap, we describe group social organisation e.g. equality and hierarchy, by a distribution of individual influence e.g. equal or skewed. We then combine social dynamics and evolutionary dynamics to simulate groups of individuals coordinating to produce resources and distribute it. So far, our results provide a firm theoretical basis for the “iron law of oligarchy” and provides a bottom-up explanation for the transition from equality to hierarchy and despotism.