Guided Cultural Evolution and Sustainable Development: Proof of Concept and Exploratory Results
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This dissertation innovatively uses Cross-Impact Balances (CIB) to study how societal cultures evolve, and how societies might steer the evolution of their cultures towards sustainability. Societal cultures have been conceptualized as interdependent sets of worldviews, institutions, and technologies (WITs), which co-evolve and interact with their environment (Beddoe et al. 2009). CIB is a judgment-based, computational method for identifying internally consistent scenarios (self-reinforcing system states) and pathways (sequences of contradictory system states between pairs of self-reinforcing system states) (Weimer-Jehle 2006). CIB uses categorical variables to represent state-specific effects, allowing it to represent system change as an evolutionary process of recombination (e.g., of types of worldviews, institutions, and technologies). My dissertation develops a new analytical approach for studying socio-cultural evolution; elaborates the WITs framework of socio-cultural evolution; and presents a dynamic model of socio-cultural evolution, along with validation and a set of exploratory results. Validation shows that the model performs well in reproducing the recent evolutionary histories of a sample of contemporary societies. The exploratory results provide preliminary answers to the following research questions: which combinations of worldviews, institutions, and technologies (societal cultures, or WITs) are self-reinforcing, and under what environmental selective pressures; which self-reinforcing societal cultures appear to be most compatible with sustainable development, and why; and how might an unsustainable, self-reinforcing societal culture be transformed into a sustainable, self-reinforcing societal culture? My exploratory results suggest that societies have been converging towards a small number of highly contrasting cultural types, and that this polarization may be expected to continue. My exploratory results also suggest that achieving sustainable development may require a transformation in the international system from competition to cooperation. Achieving such a transformation might require societies to foster an inclusive social identity, in order to overcome potential sources of conflict that can stem from sharp cultural differences. My dissertation breaks new ground in the study of guided cultural evolution and sustainability transformations.
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Norman Kearney (2021). Guided Cultural Evolution and Sustainable Development: Proof of Concept and Exploratory Results. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/16829