Who could imagine a 21st century without data? Sophisticated information processing is key to the way societies function today. And it turns out it was also critical to the evolution of early states. According to new research led by an SFI team, the ability to store and process information was central to sociopolitical development across civilizations ranging from the Neolithic to the last millennium.

Tim Kohler

“There’s a fundamental relationship between the way in which societies process information and how large they are able to become,” says SFI External Professor Tim Kohler, an archaeologist at Washington State University and an author on a new paper published this month in Nature Communications.

Kohler and his colleagues—a range of SFI resident and external faculty and researchers—dug into what’s called the Seshat Global History Databank, a massive assembly of historical and archaeological information spanning more than 400 societies, 30 regions, and 10,000 years of human history.

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