This is the title of an interview on the Edge web site with Nicholas Christakis, a “Physician and Social Scientists” at Harvard. He hails the “biological hurricane approaching the social sciences” and “the era of computational social science.” He believes that by pooling all the relevant data “we” (or, rather, clear-sighted scientists like him) will soon achieve a clear understanding of previously murky aspects of human behavior – for example, of how “humans aggregate to form collective entities.” These new causal models will then allow for effective “interventions” at different societal levels.
To illustrate this new approach, Christakis points to a study he and others did on the Hadza, a hunter-gatherer population spread thinly on the Kenyan savannah. They created “a kind of Facebook for the Hadza” mapping the totality of their social connections. The result was quite surprising. As it it turned out, modern telecommunications and urbanization have absolutely no effect on the “structure of human social networks.“ In Christakis’s words, “Hadza social networks look just like ours. In every kind of way we could study these networks, mathematically, they didn't differ from ours.”