Social Evolution

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I’ve mentioned already my love for the sheer magic of the extended order – the traditions and unspoken rules that we all obey, from the grand to the minutiae of specialists. One of the most exciting things around this is the idea that society is constantly evolving, ever changing.

Adam Smith and the great Scottish economists of the 1700s understood this and their ideas around economic evolution were taken up by Darwin, who applied them to the natural sciences and introduced them to the mainstream.

I think social media is a great case in point that demonstrates this. Just the other week I was having a discussion with some colleagues at work, and one made a passing comment about, ‘those people who invented social media…’.

This clanged about in my brain, and travelling back on the train it struck me that no-one invented social media. Various companies developed websites for specific purposes (rating other people at college, new ways for taxi drivers to communicate), and over time these sites grew and morphed and the users drove them in unexpected directions as the companies themselves struggled to keep up and develop the sites while keeping them commercially viable. At no stage did anyone sit down and think, “I know, I’ll invent social media today and it will be one of the greatest developments of the Internet of the 21st century!”

This never, ever happens, because nearly always the good things in life evolve over time, shaped by many people, not just the people that invented them. This is why socialism will always be doomed to fail. The extended order can never be controlled or predicted by individual minds, the great planners of the world will never second guess society.

I think there is a key aspect of life that explains this, that I’ll explore tomorrow.

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