Saturday, May 19, 2007

Power and Populations

When I was actively involved in studying astronomy, I was amazed by a simple picture called the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram that depicts the life and death of every star in the Universe based on one single variable: the color of light emitted by those stars. I had a similar reaction when I completed the latest phase of my research into populations of people.

My simple statistical model of how simulated people approach their favored states of being, originally created to help predict the behavior of characters in the novel I’m writing, appears to be showing how constraints on people’s power and perceptions may determine how much resources they use, how long they live, how much they hurt each other, how free their societies are, and how satisfied they are with their lives.

Additionally, the model projects that as people become more aware and empowered, things get really bad right before they become as good as they can get. By my count, at least eight countries have reached or moved past that “bad” peak. There may be some hope that the rest of us might before our most critical resources become severely limited.

One of the most interesting aspects of the model is a set of transitions, of which the one I discussed is the last. The first transition occurs when some people in the population gain an accurate awareness of where they should apply their energy to attain their goals (even if they don’t know quite how much to use); notably at this transition, violence begins to rise. The second transition occurs just beyond the point where half the population has this awareness, and is also marked by violence, except in this case a drop in it, just before it begins rising to the point of the third transition. The third transition is where violence peaks and everyone in the population is finally aware of where their lives are relative to their goals. After that, they just need to apply enough energy to reach their favored state, until the end: when they do.

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