Epochal trajectories

Steve.Keen at unsw.edu.au Steve.Keen at unsw.edu.au
Tue Mar 7 18:32:47 MST 1995

Paul Cockshott recently posted the following in a comment on
the transition from one society to another:

I am fully in sympathy with this approach. Any developmental process
of things as complex as societies is bound to be goverened by
probabalistic laws. But for there to be a direction to history
all that one requires is that the transition probabilities in
one direction - summed over time and social ensembles - are
greater than the reverse transition probabilities.

Hate to play the devil's advocate here, but if social forces are
chaotic/nonlinear, then such probability summing doesn't work. A
chance event at one point in time can have cumulative impacts far
beyond its probabilistic weighting. Economists are beginning to
apply this notion of "path dependency" to such questions as why
we continue to use the inferior QWERTY keyboard, but it applies
to much bigger questions such as societal change too. A few
chance events in history can have a lot more impact than the
summing argument would imply.
Steve Keen

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