Collapse and upper-class greed?
Climate change, adaptive cycles, and the persistence of foraging economies during the late Pleistocene/Holocene transition
Wetland fields as mirrors of drought and the Maya abandonment
Molecular Determinants of Scouting Behavior in Honey Bees
Cultural adaptation, compounding vulnerabilities and conjunctures in Norse Greenland
Kax and kol: Collapse and resilience in lowland Maya civilization
Critical perspectives on historical collapse
Several of this week's papers (in PNAS) revisit some of the examples of societal "collapse" that Jared Diamond's book discussed. I'm looking forward to reading them.
But I want to comment briefly on another interesting PNAS paper:
"Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior." I'm inclined to blame the recent and ongoing global economic collapse -- is that too strong a word? -- on the unethical behavior of some fraction of the upper class. But I don't find this paper entirely convincing, though it's certainly interesting. Here are some of their data.
The top graph shows the percent of cars cutting off other cars at intersections, while the bottom shows the percent that failed to stop for pedestrians, both as a function of subjectively-assessed "vehicle status." It looks like people in high-status cars are more likely to be jerks. (Difference between a Porsche and a porcupine? The pricks are on the outside.) The observers weren't told what hypothesis they were testing, but it seems like it would be easy to guess. Could anti-rich bias on the part of the observers (probably students who weren't rich -- yet -- and who may feel "oppressed" by the rich parents who are paying for their education) have affected their judgment of whether a car cut off another or not? Are "drug-dealer cars" high or low status?
Also, most of the difference in the top graph is between class 4 and 5 cars, while most of the difference in the bottom graph is between class 1 and 2. The paper doesn't comment on this discrepancy. Are all but the poorest (but still rich enough to have a car) jerks against pedestrians, while only the richest are jerks against other cars?
The paper includes results from additional studies, but all were done with undergrads at UC Berkeley. Although some of them came from low-income families, they themselves have a ticket to the upper class. Some might choose low-paying vocations, but at least they get the choice. So I don't have much confidence in those studies.