Journal of Social Computing


social evolution, thresholds model, information processing, writing, demographic scale, collective computation


Collective computation is the process by which groups store and share information to arrive at decisions for collective behavior. How societies engage in effective collective computation depends partly on their scale. Social arrangements and technologies that work for small- and mid-scale societies are inadequate for dealing effectively with the much larger communication loads that societies face during the growth in scale that is a hallmark of the Holocene. An important bottleneck for growth may be the development of systems for persistent recording of information (writing), and perhaps also the abstraction of money for generalizing exchange mechanisms. Building on Shin et al., we identify a Scale Threshold to be crossed before societies can develop such systems, and an Information Threshold which, once crossed, allows more or less unlimited growth in scale. We introduce several additional articles in this special issue that elaborate or evaluate this Thresholds Model for particular types of societies or times and places in the world.