back to article Computer sim explains why hippies became extinct

Old-time egalitarian societies were just too stable to survive in a dog-eat-dog world, according to Stanford University researchers, a situation which led to them being overrun by the stratified societies which dominate humanity today. The study used a computer simulation to compare demographic stability and rates of migration …


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  1. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    What amazes me is that the greedy bastards at the top have no idea what to spend their money on, other than vulgar bling.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Did the hippie get a job?

  3. Sean Masterson 1

    Hippie Civilization

    In my simulations (Civilization II) the Hippie tribe ruled the world. Their leader was called, Man. The game's opening message would read, "Man, you have risen to become leader of the Hippies."

    Hippie technology was world class and the reason for a constant stream of exchange offers and threats Of course, Hippie attempts to fob off other covilisations with cartographic treasures inevitably met with a churlish, "We have no need of your useless Hippie maps."

    Yeah? But you jealously eyed the Hanging Gardens of Skunkweed, didn't you?

    1. Vic

      > Did the hippie get a job?

      Yes, I did.

      Thank you for asking.


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      not over here at least. It's the wannabe-wealthies who like to think they're at the top because they've got a range rover and £250k after a good house sale who are vulgar. Or, even worse, the guy who earns £50k a year and gets into a big stack of debt. THAT is vulgar bling territory.

      The actual rich- not just "flying 1st class most of the time" but "own the plane" rich- are too busy being miles away from anyone who isn't rich to be thought of as vulgar.

    3. Rob Dobs

      Funny. And when the Hell has there EVER been a Fair egalitarian society?

      I miss the days where you could easily edit text files and change the text in a game

      And what the hell did they use as a model for fair Countries? There has NEVER been a fair and egalitarian society EVER (that I am aware of). Military dictatorships that ruled with Iron fists under the guise of being fair, or even Marxist were NOT FAIR nor EGALITARIAN, they were usually just straight up dictatorships.

      In fact I am not aware of ANY civilization in history of significant size or duration that EVER shared everything equally. Almost all societies up until recent history were ruled by monarchs or tribal leaders, more recent examples of "socialism" or "communism" were absolutely and totally ruled and owned by an elite upper class. Every society EVER has had a mass of poor uneducated masses that were kept uneducated and ignorant to be easier to control and use.

      Where the hell did they get their basis for modeling? Sure maybe fascist run states turned out not do so well as their more free capitalist counterparts, but how does that translate into anything the study or headline claims?

      I would argue that the UK, US and more modern socialist countries like Sweden, Netherlands, Switzerland are the most FAIR societies to exist in history, being that we (variably) have social well-fair, social medicine (not US obviously) public services, and community protections like fire, police etc. And these countries have flourished and spread over the globe especially with the UK spawning US, Australia and Canada, and US culture influencing the entire modern world.

      And even these countries are GROSSLY unfair, with still uneducated held down masses, and super rich elite class that owns 80-90% of the countries wealth. Human kind has decades of education, reform and growth before we ever get a real socialistic model to even test this with!

      An while I'm ranting, why does everyone (some commentators here included) buy the rich elite garbage that having a fair society means you don't get paid what your worth? Just because you have a fair system that keeps an elite class from setting the rules and abusing the rest of the population, doesn't mean you have to pay garbage men and CEO's the same wage. Those that contribute more and work harder, should get more rewards, they just shouldn't be allowed to game the system to their advantage, and have political positions and own companies because of who their daddy is. When the Garbage man and the CEO's kids both have to work at their educations, and are responsible for their success AND have a FAIR chance at the same jobs and rewards THEN we will have something you could call a FAIR society. Never existed yet that I can see, and no country seems like they are moving to that any time soon either.

      1. johnwerneken

        Yes there were egalitarians once...they became extinct and deservedly so

        DUH. When nothing CAN be changed, maybe 15,000 years ago everywhere, egalitarianism made sense. Not since Cro-Magnon technology, or agriculture, or civilization, or industry, or information technology. What works is what is right. Whether one blames evolution or God, it's still true.

        1. Rob Dobs

          I doubt it...

          Not only do you present no evidence, but what you say goes very against the animalistic like culture that people 15,000 years ago were understood to have had. Might makes right and if you don't like it you get killed or driven out. The very few frozen bodies we have from that time have human tool wounds, so the evidence seems to back up the general suspicions that I am familiar with. I don't think cavemen had ANY level of fairness, sharing or anything that could be called socialism or egalitarianism. Tribal packs with some social necessities maybe, but still ruled by a single war chief or Shaman, usually they guy with the most muscle who could swing the biggest club. Thank god we are progressing at least.

          "What works is what is right"

          Slavery worked, at least for the slave owners...doesn't mean it was right though. We ended it, throughout the civilized world though conscious choice that treating people that way was wrong.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've been thinking...

    ... that non-egalitarianism isn't necessarily bad. It's how it's stratified that where unfairness sets in. Perversely, if everybody is equal, that rigidness might itself be seen as unfair. I'm not strictly thinking communism-as-recently-implemented here, where there clearly are classes, haves and have-nots, though the system insists that this cannot be so, or something.

    The thing with feudalism being considered antiquated is not even so much that positions are inherited, but that the king didn't revoke enough when the people in high positions were clearly not working as they should.

    So we might as well recognise that some people are "better placed" than others (politicians, the wealthy, etc.), and others put themselves out of society's favour (say, criminals). And then make sure always have realistic options to move as they see fit. That is, don't judge people on things they can do nothing about (skin colour) or are frankly irrelevant (say, sexual preference) but on what they do contribute to society.

    If we as a society decide that influential people may get away with small things like parking tickets (think diplomats) then, well, whatever. If they can get away with big stuff, turning position into ways to milking society without giving back and blocking any attempt at replacing them with someone less greedy and more competent (almost all dictators and tyrants and their cronies), then that's very bad.

    If we can find ways to effectively make sure only those who do good hog the positions of influence then we'll keep the ideals of democracy (and/or republicanism if you're a 'merkin), and maybe can do away with a couple drawbacks, like how practice doesn't reakkt live up to the promises of the ideal. As in, might as well roll with reality and make the best of it, eh.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's a long post ...

      ... to say you want a meritocracy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Not strictly a meritocracy, per se.

        What does "merit" mean really? Proficiency in something? How do you measure that, hold "leadership races" or something? I don't quite see how that's usefully work.

        I'm more interested in looking at the whole and making sure it works reasonably well, and that includes removing the people with demerits. And to make sure that the way up is at least as feasible as the way down when "below" and the way down at least as feasible as the way up when "above" the, er, middle, which is far from the case right now.

        As long as those requirements are met, I don't really care, much, how you appoint people. Even recognising that growing up as the offspring of a lord does indeed give you certain advantages, though I wouldn't hand the same title over straight; I'd do like the Chinese and downgrade an inherited title a rank; if you want to earn the full title you'd have to show you're worthy. So yes, some elements of meritocracy, but not necessarily entirely so. "Whatever works", seen from the big picture.

        And, of course, it's easier to start applying some fixes that do roughly that on the current system than to revamp it on a different ideology entirely, provided the nitwits at the top blocking improvements can be avoided.

      2. johnwerneken
        Thumb Up

        Yes I do. No others need even apply to vote.

  5. Arctic fox

    These kinds of studies amuse me.

    Their own unconscious assumptions (political, social etc.) did not in any way influence or bias the model? I am not accusing them of dishonesty, I am just amused that they appear to believe that this kind of modelling can have any pretensions to scientific objectivity (a very difficult thing to attain even in the so-called "hard sciences"). The joke icon? Just my comment on this kind of "research".

    1. The last doughnut

      Completely agree with you Mr A Fox

      Results of their computer modeling seem to reflect their own prejudices, or at least what I suspect these are. I also suspect the original "Stanford Prison Experiment" had the same type of bias.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      One wonders if they ran the model and it came back with unexpected results and so they decide that 'there must have been a mistake'. They then change stuff until it comes back with the 'correct' results. Instant bias.

      I work in modelling in a different field, and this always happens.

      1. Elmer Phud


        "Do bunches of people who don't give a toss about others and will do just about anything to feel in some way superior tend to override those who are not so grabbing and self-centered?"

        Not sure they needed to re-do it.

      2. Doctor Tarr

        They ran the model until they got the results Al Gore wanted.

  6. Titus Technophobe


    The modern day benefits system gives Darwinian selective advantage to people who don’t work, and breed excessively. I wonder where that leaves todays society?

  7. Marco van de Voort
    Thumb Down

    Tell it to Louis XIV

    I miss the word "revolt" in this article :-)

  8. Pete 2

    Wanting more

    So many people seem to be motivated by greed: wanting more than other people, rather than by the actual amount of stuff that everybody has. Contrary-wise, people generally tend not to be so unhappy with having nothing, provided everyone they know is in a similar predicament.

    It's only when the advertisers start pointing out "you could have .... " that people start to become dissatisfied with their lot.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Most of the hippies I know

    still stink

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'd say...

      ...that the modern western system is producing (has produced?) a class that will succeed very well in the future - a homogeneous mass of feckless consumers. On the upside, the majority of society will be content, if not happy. On what else could you grade the ultimate success of a rights-of-the-individual society other than the sum of individual contentment?

    2. jm83

      Fortunately for you...

      ... genetics has eff all to do with claiming benefits.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        except in the point made by the OP. that spreading your genes increases your benefit payments, size of your council house etc etc

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          It does look as though people forget that spreading your genes also increases your costs.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      I see the warped thinking behind Eugenics hasn't completely died out.

    4. Elmer Phud

      "gives Darwinian selective advantage to people who don’t work, and breed excessively. "

      admittedly it's not exactly Darwinian but are you having a pop at our royal family?

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Thanks for letting us know.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Louis XVI?

      The French revolutionaries topped Louis the XVI.

    7. MacGyver

      Not everyone though. I like my job, and I like the amount I make, granted I can make more if I switch from doing the technician side of my job to the "management" side, but I won't, I like fixing things.

      Some people only want more money, because they think that more money will make them happier, but that's not always true. Once you make enough money to not have to worry about paying for the things you need in life; a car that works, a place to lay your head, health care for the ones you love, and food; you can be happy. I make enough that I can go out to eat when I want to, buy a new TV if I plan it out far enough, and buy clothes as mine wear out, hell I can even go on vacations once a year, I'm happy. I don't need 15 Ferrari's or a 150ft yacht or a 40 bedroom house, and those that think they do, are wrong, they don't "need" any of those things, so when they get them, and they are still not happy, they find other things they "need".

      I'm guessing that what they really are trying to buy is a "I'm important feeling", or maybe a ,"see daddy, I am not worthless", but the only place they can get that from is from themselves, but until they realize that, they will continue to buy diamond-encrusted gold-plated iPhones.

  10. jake Silver badge

    Oh shit.

    I guess my entire Ranch will now immediately curl up and die.


    If we did, Stanford evolutionary biologist Marcus Feldman's connectivity would collapse like a used condom ...

  11. Marvin the Martian

    "Evolutionary psychologist"

    There's never been a more successful scientific wastebin than that. Thousands of psychologist do valid evolutionary studies, but only a small sect calls themselves that... It's a field inspired by Kipling's Just So Stories.

  12. lowly seer
    Thumb Up

    "in unequal communities, the have-nots tended to go in search of a better life when things got bad."

    which could explain why in the UK we've been left with a class-ridden slow-lane economy when all our downtrodden left for the USA, Australia and the like, and left a bunch of rich drones to lord it over their empire of dirt.

    1. Marshalltown


      There's no frontier left to head for now.

      1. johnwerneken

        try inner and outer space. invent a product a service a process. support research and exploration.

        try inner and outer space. invent a product a service a process. support research and exploration.

  13. blem wit

    Effing commies

    The lot of you. Stinking red commies.

    I don't want no freaking "egualitarian" society where the parasites will just leech off my work.

    And also is highly amusing how they kept referring to "stratified societies" just, shy of admitting they are talking full blown marxist class struggle.

    Mine is the one with the wad of hard earned cash in the pocket.

    1. Martin


    2. cocknee

      blame (dim) wit

      "Mine is the one with the wad of hard earned cash in the pocket."

      what's the loadsamoney plasterer doing on this IT site?

      Don't forget, even in egualitarian societies, someone still has to clean the roads, the public shitters and do plastering etc... that's you that is :p

      1. blem wit

        The left "socialized" my tittle

        15 years programming work tells me that an IT site is precisely where I should be.

        "Don't forget, even in egualitarian societies, someone still has to clean the roads, the public shitters and do plastering etc... that's you that is :p"

        I was born in and live in Brazil. Even tough we are capitalists in name only, the last 30 years we have been completelly drowned in cultural marxism. The result is that no one clean the roads, the public shitters are overflowing with merde and every damn public buiilding is falling apart. I had to do some work inside a public service building a while ago and they were running 486s and there where crumbled walls inside the office space (i kid you not).

        Right now, the state mail service is on strike, as are all public banks. We pay one of the highest tax rates in the world (average 40 something % of all income) and this money is being invested in Cuba and a coke road in Bolivia, while my aunt died of cancer during the 2 years she waited for surgery under the public health system (Medicare believers, take note). That is, the bit that doesn't end up in the pocket of our beloved progressive and caring for the poor leaders. And not to mention the complete and utter ubiquity of "social programs" and welfare packages.

        I have studied for 20 years to be competent in the tech industry and slave away 80 hours a week (ocasiannly stumbling os the corpses littering the streets and still I barely make enough to pay the rent. When at home, I need to be extracarefull of the thief I will encounter in the kitchen (utterly fearless, because he will never be jailed and the state has confiscated my weapons).

        I am writing this right now because I taught myself english (I hold a Cambridge CPE), not because some egalitarian school system was able to teach me anything. The only thing being taught in schools is cultural marxism, the left slogans and sexual deviations.

        So, being someone who gives a fuck and works hard to do something about my life with honesty and equipped with half a brain in a country of good for nothing lazy-ass dumb as fuck commies, in this egalitarian society of yours I wouldn't mind cleaning the shitters. As I figure it, it would be a step up from being shit on like I am right now.

        1. Arctic fox
          Thumb Down

          @Blem wit: So, nobody who does not share your view of life and how............

          ..........we humans should or do interact is hard-working, honest and respects achievement? You undoubtedly represent why certain "types" took over in the model described in the article.

          1. Nightkiller

            @Arctic Fox

            ...and why in the egalitarian society everyone is looking at everyone else waiting to find out who will pick up your shit. After all, once it's left your body it society's problem.

          2. blem wit

            Stalin had this title shot.

            It's commendable the faith in the human race you got there.

            But history might have something to say about that, nonetheless. Ask the 100+ millions of victims of communism.

            If you are willing to move to Cuba or the PRC, I will be glad to pay for your one-way-ticket.

        2. Yag
          Thumb Up


          and far from the usual stuff I hear about Brazil around here...

          Well, France is also one of those pseudo-marxist country however. And I won't even speak about our "journalists", just check wikileaks cables for an accurate description...

        3. J 3

          @blem wit

          Well, you must suck at your job. If you're working 80 h a week and can barely pay rent, you must -- yeah, I know, Brazil... I'm from there too. If you're barely as good as your conceited self thinks you are, then why haven't you left yet? Or found as better job? The exit door is open, and someone as good as you (think you are) should find employment anywhere, right? Brazil is in the shitters exactly because of the local "savage capitalism" system (which the right wing in America seems to want to achieve), which as you correctly point out extends to the whole of Brazilian politics too. Mané... Icon is for you.

          1. blem wit

            Fear not, my canadian work visa process is in the later stages and should be approved by the end of the year, as is my itallan citizenship application, but that one will still take a while.

            T+, mané.

            1. J 3

              Oh, fantastic, I can see Brazil improving a little bit already! People with the caveman mentality that brought us the military dictatorship will never be missed. Enjoy the social-democrat Canada (or Europe), then, hypocrite. But you might feel a little lonely in the great White North, since they are usually nice, tolerant people not very much into homophobia, unlike you (or whatever it was you meant with that weird "sexual deviations taught in school" part of your rant).

    3. Arctic fox

      RE: "Effing Commies" Hi Ghengis old chap, how are you and Attila hanging......

      ........these days? Oh and by the way, next time you see Adolph do give him a big heil from me - you know how it cheers him up.

  14. Chris Miller

    Communism doesn't work because people like to own stuff. - Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

    1. eurobloke

      His head is here

      Ironically, he has a status here in Vilnius. Done straight after the Soviet occupation in 1991.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Instead, it appears that the stratified societies simply spread and took over"

    also known as "democratising" or other similar Bushism to describe the forced spread of "democratic" government and all out (cold) war on any other type of political structure..

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When we are all one big world and in the same mire, where are the have nots going to go in search of a better life ?

    I predict a riot, or probably civil war.

  17. A J Stiles


    In times of scarcity, selfishness may actually be beneficial. One well-fed caveman and one caveman beaten around the head and his dinner stolen has a slightly better chance of survival than two half-starved cavemen.

    In times of plenty, people are more likely to notice selfish behaviour for what it is.

    1. johnwerneken


      Actually you got it totally backwards. When there is permanent scarcity people share or the tribe casts them out. When change is possible those who bring the change rule the tribe and the tribe extinguishes competing egalitarian tribes whenever it meets them. Very simple. I'm astounded anyone got paid to research this with a sim. It's been researched continuously since Cr-Magnon technology was invented lol.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    What a surprise...

    I mean; here I was thinking that Eric Cartman had finally succeeded by locking them all up in his basement...

  19. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    The ascent of man

    Given that most of us spend 8 hours a day working, or at least imprisoned and pretending to, have probably 2 hours commuting, and spend most of our free time knackered, watching TV, just sitting in the pub or shopping, and wasting half the weekend catching up on sleep; the research I'd like to see is - Why isn't there something better than what we have? How did we ever get into this state?

    Whatever your beliefs are it's hard to think we were put on this earth to slog our balls off for 40-60 years and then die. For me it's not about the money it's wishing to have time, to be something other than a wage slave. Like most people I have neither money nor time, and it's usually a catch-22 that you will at best have one or the other, not both.

    If this is the pinnacle of human society then something has gone badly wrong. I personally think the hippies have the right idea.

    1. OrsonX
      Big Brother

      The pinnacle of human society

      But that's just it, this ISN'T the pinnacle of human society, very VERY far from it. The problems are myriad and things are only going to get worse (possibly a lot) before they get better (if we ever get there).

      Firstly the answer: The Culture, or any other SciFi utopian society = no money, no disease, you can have anything you want, etc.

      Is this possible? Yes.

      What do we need to do to get there? Well....

    2. Tom 13

      What has gone wrong is everyone keeps thinking

      the hippies/progressives/liberals/marxists had the right idea, when the truth is they are the ones effing it up. Stop having to pay half or more of your pay check to support the leeches and pretty soon you'll have more money. You may even get enough so you decide you only have to work 32 hours/week instead of 40, plus commutes, plus meals and still have enough time to go do other things.

  20. Alan Firminger

    It all depends ...

    ... on the initial assumptions.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd highly recommend the Status Anxiety

    documentary by Alain De Botton (based on his book, which may also be worth a look - I'm too lazy too read!). It discusses modern consumer culture and possible reasons for why people are sucked into it.

  22. Marshalltown

    Civilization != society

    Except ion post-modern, post-normal, p-c speech, "civilization" and "society" are not equivalent terms. While all civilizations are societies, not all societies are civilizations. Civilizations are inherently inegalitarian. Egalitarian societies tend to vanish as the necessity for food storage and long range planning increase. They succeed primarily where the ecology permits a foraging approach to survival. Since most of the planet is not this way, few such societies survive. Also, the lack of suitable environment means that societies that are lead tend to displace those that operate by consensus. It probably has more to do with time lags in decision making than anything else. It's why "decisive" leaders are commonly admired, and unless they are profoundly unsane, they don't tend to lead their societies into fatal situations. In the face of a serious stress that demands some solution - arguing about which is the best may be contra-survival, leading to Darwinian situations.

  23. asdf Silver badge

    Greed as a virtue aside

    Socialism in IT however is somewhat feasible as the free software movement has shown. Tragedy of the commons is not an issue so much in the digital world.

    1. blem wit

      Where would the open source be today without all the funding provided by IBM, Sun, Google and countless others enterprises. I would venture saying not very far.

      Besides, communism and socialism are based on the premise of a huge state dictating all aspects of society and how it's ran. Isn't open source precisely the opposite of that?


      1. jake Silver badge

        @blem wit

        Er ... yes.

        IBM resisted open source for decades.

        (Insert BSD, Minix, Linux, et ali, here in the timeline ... Decades pass ...)

        Sun was founded on open source (currently being squandered by oracle).

        google is YetAnotherCompany[tm] trying to make open source closed.

        You're confusing politics with opportunism and marketing ...

  24. Spanners Silver badge

    Do not mix up your concepts

    Capitalism != democracy - look at the PRC - very capitalist and not very democratic

    Stratified Society != undemocratic - the UK became much less stratified after WWII as it tried out the welfare state. Now it is following its US master down the tubes it is becoming similarly class ridden (just under a different set of names).

    having a welfare state != marxist or even undemocratic - looking after the poor and needy is sometimes referred to as being civilised. See what Aneurin Bevan said about healthcare.

    Calling your country a democracy != freedom. East Germany was a perfect example.

    Get your concepts right and you are starting the long road to logical thinking, Mis-represent ideas and you are well on the way to becoming a rabble rouser - Marxist or Teabagger, there is little difference.

  25. This is my handle

    I saw a beautiful film about this years ago

    "Pathfinder" is a gourgeous film set in the Lapland about 1000 years ago. An idyllically peaceful tribe living on the coast runs into bad guys, who in addition to greed and hierarchy have discovered... the crossbow.

    I don't know about stability, but strongly believe that scalability is an issue here. What works for a tribe might not work for societies like the UK & the US, much less India or China.

    I realize the irony in saying this, since I'm referring to a film based on an ancient legend, but I'm not entirely sure how much credence I'd put in sociological simulation just yet either. GIve it another 1000 years, maybe, if we (as a species) are still around.

    Anyway, the film:

  26. DanceMan

    Population Growth

    Might be a significant factor. When the natives here in coastal British Columbia dominated, they had one of the richest hunting and gathering societies in the world. Which meant they had lots of time to make war on the neighbours.

    Now that the Europeans and Asians have taken over and overpopulated the place, we all have to work a lot harder.

    And for Brasil guy, go for Italy. Our Canadian medical system, despite the strains, mostly works. And it covers everyone and only costs about 10% of GDP. The privatized mess down south that doesn't cover everyone costs them over 17% of GDP. You wouldn't like our "socialized system."

  27. johnwerneken

    Next we will have research telling us some humans enjoy sex

    DUH. When nothing CAN be changed, maybe 15,000 years ago everywhere, egalitarianism made sense. Not since Cro-Magnon technology, or agriculture, or civilization, or industry, or information technology. What works is what is right. Whether one blames evolution or God, it's still true.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    All the rest, including this so-called simulation, is just so much politically correct nonsense.

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