Nautilus

When Did Tribalism Get To Be So Fashionable?

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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

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