At certain points in human history, societies experience revolutions in collective computation — the methods for storing and sharing information that shape decisions in collective behavior. Those revolutions, in turn, can shape the scale of societies that adopt them.

In a recent paper in the Journal of Social Computing, SFI Professor David Wolpert, SFI External Professor Tim Kohler (Washington State University), and their colleague, Darcy Bird (Washington State University) built on past research to explore patterns of change to collective computation that occur in human history. They identified two significant thresholds that relate scale to changes in collective computation. First, they observed a scale threshold: before information systems, like writing systems, emerge, societies must grow to a certain scale. Second, they found an information threshold, which, when crossed, enables societies to grow in scale.

Read the paper at