Nautilus

When Did Tribalism Get To Be So Fashionable?

Wikimedia Commons

Last month, I published an article on Nautilus called “Is Tribalism a Natural Malfunction?”. It was a meditation on a series of computer experiments in the study of Prisoner’s Dilemma, and a reflection on what these simulations, and more complex arguments from mathematical logic, might tell us about social life. The groups that formed in our simulation, shibboleth machines, were unable to tolerate others—and eventually became unable to tolerate the differences that emerged amongst themselves.

There were some lovely comments on Nautilus and elsewhere, of course, and the usual rough-and-tumble of Internet argument. What I didn’t expect was the robust defense of tribalism made by educated and apparently intelligent people writing on ostensibly science- and technology-focused sites. (A student in my seminar sent me a link to the Hacker News discussion; a search pulled up similar kinds of discussion on Reddit.)

There is

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus5 min readPsychology
It Takes A Village To Raise A Meerkat: What the rare cooperative species tells us about ourselves.
Living in the flat, arid landscape of the Kalahari, meerkats are one of the most cooperative species of mammal on the planet. The scarcity of food and few places to hide from predators has led them to live in groups where they share the tasks of fora
Nautilus5 min readScience
Think You Know the Definition of a Black Hole? Think Again
When I was 12, I made the mistake of watching the Paul W. S. Anderson horror film, Event Horizon. It gave me nightmares for weeks: The movie’s title refers to an experimental spaceship that could create artificial black holes through which to travel,
Nautilus10 min read
The Computer Maverick Who Modeled the Evolution of Life: Nils Aall Barricelli showed that organisms evolved by symbiosis and cooperation.
In 1953, at the dawn of modern computing, Nils Aall Barricelli played God. Clutching a deck of playing cards in one hand and a stack of punched cards in the other, Barricelli hovered over one of the world’s earliest and most influential computers, th