'Internet Age' means egalitarian 'hunter-gatherer' society

Inherited cattle = unfairness, apparently

Business security measures using SSL

Federal brainboxes in New Mexico, analysing the many types of human society in terms of inequality between rich and poor, have suggested that the modern "internet age" of knowledge and technology-based economies may lead to substantially fairer wealth distribution - perhaps as fair as that seen in primitive hunter-gatherer groups.

The research was carried out by 26 anthropologists, statisticians and economists based at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico as part of the US National Science Foundation's Persistent Inequality project. The assembled thinkers examined the role of inherited wealth in various different societies group by the essential technologies used in people's livelihoods.

Hunter-gatherer peoples, according to the researchers, have quite equitable wealth distribution. There isn't much scope for such folk to pass on wealth to their children as their most valuable technologies are innate qualities such as wit and physical strength.

But in societies based primarily on farming - ie most of the human race for most of its history - the main "technologies" are things like land or livestock, easily inherited by the children of the wealthy. This tends to lead to a very unequal society.

"These societies exhibit levels of wealth inheritance and of inequality rivaling the most unequal national economies in the world today," says anthropologist Monique Borgerhoff Mulder, one of the study coordinators.

Even in the more right-on hunter gatherer milieu, though, it's well worth having successful parents. If you do, you're still three times as likely to do well in life yourself - though not 11 times more likely as in a farming setup, or 20 times as in a herding one.

But here's the good news from the NSF for us residents of the modern, Western knowledge/bullshit-based economies (or bad news if we happen to have wealthy, powerful parents):

The authors note that wealth in the emergent knowledge-based economy of today in some ways resembles that of hunter-gatherers in that its characteristic forms of wealth - skill and social connections - are less readily passed from parent to child than, say, a factory or plantation.

Though there is the customary caveat:

But this does not mean that the new information-driven Internet Age will necessarily assure less inequality.

The group's paper, Intergenerational Wealth Transmission and the Dynamics of Inequality in Small-Scale Societies, can be read here by subscribers to Science magazine. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Bacon-related medical breakthrough wins Ig Nobel prize
Is there ANYTHING cured pork can't do?
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story


Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.