Jul 21, 2022 • 45M

Why Complex Societies Need Simple Individuals | John Gowdy

This town ain't big enough for the both of 'em

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Rachel Donald
Planet: Critical is the podcast for a world in crisis. We face severe climate, energy, economic and political breakdown. Journalist Rachel Donald interviews those confronting the crisis, revealing what's really going on—and what needs to be done.
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John Gowdy is Professor of Economics and Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. He is the recipient of the Herman Daly Award for contributions to ecological economics, and author of Ultrasocial: The Evolution of Human Nature and the Quest for a Sustainable Future.


John joins me to explain how humans, like ants and termites, are “ultrasocial” and what this form of hyper-complex social organisation does to our relationships, our neurochemistry, and our individuality.

He says increasingly complex social organisation leads to a decrease in individual complexity. John argues that rather than environmental destruction and extreme inequality being due to human nature, they are the result of the adoption of agriculture by our ancestors.

Planet: Critical investigates why the world is in crisis—and what to do about it.

© Rachel Donald