What are the best questions to ask a homo sapiens statisticus who analyses history? Does God play dice in the fourth dimension? How can we measure the uncertainty of events that channel the course of history? How are the affairs of humanity inter-connected between local, national and global levels down through history? Does an evolutionary factor play a part in that process?
A decreasing exponential mathematical model fits the sequences of major events in the histories of western Europe, Ireland and County Wexford.
Diagram 1 (a). Actual timespans of the major historical eras in western European history from 753BC to 1492AD
Diagram 1 (b). Actual timespans of the major historical eras in western European history
from 1492AD to 1916AD
The literary works of Isaac Asimov
Mathematical physicists enjoy the stories by Isaac Asimov (1920–1992). His Foundation novels are classics of the science fiction genre. Asimov suggested a macro-statistical approach to history in order to predict the future. He envisaged a universal model based on the theory of gases. The molecules that make up a gas move randomly in three dimensions at a variety of speeds. Nevertheless, one could fairly describe what those motions would be on average and thus infer the gas laws.
Asimov applied that concept to human beings. Each individual has a free will, but large populations behave quite predictably. The probabilistic analysis of mob behaviour was his theory of psychohistory. Three conditions would be required:
a. He invoked an enormously large population. His galactic empire would have a total population of 100 quadrillion people.
b. He retained randomness. Individuals might not behave randomly if they knew what was expected of them.
c. Just as gases consist solely of molecules, psychohistory would work only if all intelligent inhabitants in the Milky Way galaxy were either humans or robots subject to humans. Any genetic mutation would alter Asimov’s conceptualised design.
In the past, economic periods of boom and bust usually coincided with episodes of war and peace, respectively. The decreasing exponential model charts the general trend of those eddies in the onward swirls of the stream of time. The tides of major eras heave in the ocean of world history. They can have knock-on effects that can generate turning points in local history.
The year 1859 was an important date in modern history. Darwin published his Origin of Species in that year. It has its place on the graph of the general model of history.
The graphs converge rapidly towards the baseline. This suggests that the structures of human society are evolving towards ultimate equilibrium. The progression of history does not decay into unpredictable chaos. Human society continuously evolves from imperfect conditions towards more humane social structures. A better era of social justice has usually followed the preceding era.
A statistician’s best answers to questions about history might be:
• at the micro-level of individuals, the future is unpredictable; but
• at the macro-level of large populations, events are more certain to turn out as expected.
Statistical analysis reveals that an evolutionary dynamic underlies the general trend of history.
Diagram 2.1 The theory holds well on the macro-level of European history1
Diagram 2.2 The history of Ireland2 was similar to that of western Europe
Diagram 2.3 The general model also fits the local history of Wexford3 quite well
Diagram 3.1 The adjusted model of historical events in western Europe
Diagram 3.2. Composite graph of key historical dates