Center for Global Humanities presents “The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall”

CGH Mark Moffett

What are societies? What keeps them together and what tears them apart? A New Yorker can fly to Los Angeles -- or Paris -- 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 all manage, for the most part, to get along with each other? And what goes wrong when we don’t?

An online lecture presented by the University of New England Center for Global Humanities will take up these questions and others on Monday, November 2 at 6 p.m., when Mark Moffett presents “The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall.” The lecture will be streamed live to the Center’s Maine, national, and global communities.

In his talk, Moffett will discuss how sprawling, highly complex societies have been created and what sustains them. He will examine the social adaptations that bind members to their societies and explore how the tension between identity and anonymity determines whether our groups work.

Since earning his Ph.D. in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University, Moffett has contributed more than 500 photographs to National Geographic while giving countless lectures and penning articles for more than 120 scientific journals and magazines. A globetrotting expert on ants, he has sought out new species and behaviors in more than 100 countries, earning 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. The resultant book, The Human Swarm, has been regaled as a masterpiece. 

This will be the fourth online lecture of the academic year at the Center for Global Humanities. For more information and to watch the event, please visit:


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