Center for Global Humanities Lecture/Seminar Series

The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall

Mark Moffett
Free and open to the public

What Are Societies? What Keeps Them Together and Tears Them Apart? A New Yorker can fly to Los Angeles–or Borneo–with little fear. But If a chimpanzee ventures into the territory of a different group, it will almost certainly be killed. Psychologists have done little to explain this: For years, they have held that our biology puts a hard upper limit of about 150 people on the size of our social groups. But human societies are, in fact, vastly larger. How do we manage—by and large—to get along with each other? In his talk, Dr. Moffett will discuss how sprawling, highly complex societies have been created and what it takes to sustain them. He will examine the social adaptations that bind members to their societies and explores how the tension between identity and anonymity defines how those groups work—and sometimes don’t.


Mark W. Moffett has a doctorate on ants from the poet of conservation Edward O. Wilson. Having sought out new species and behavior in over 100 countries, Moffett has received the Explorers Club's Lowell Thomas Medal and the Distinguished Explorer Award from the Roy Chapman Andrews Society. For the last six years, he has worked to integrate modern psychology with biology and anthropology to create a cohesive picture of the emergence of large-scale human societies. As Kevin Kelly, the founder of Wired magazine, wrote of the resultant book, The Human Swarm, “read this manifesto if you like to have your mind changed.”


United States

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