Anomalous Synchronous Behaviour of Large Aggregates of H. sapiens

For S.F. and I.K.

I.K: last night on the metro we were just talking about the fixation on spectator sports in general and football in particular many have. This morning I stumbled upon this article. (It’s a bit longer than it needed to be, but the author makes his points.)

A quote from the article:

Add to the primal passion for identification another natural tendency — the yearning to be part of a group — and the result is a potent brew. Spectator sports offer quick and easy entree into an instant community.

S.F.: I once brought you to a Ravens game up in Baltimore, and I think you detected, perhaps with some unease, the strange electricity that’s generated when thousands of people get together and start thinking alike. It’s as if their thoughts become quantum entangled.

Here’s a YouTube example of a group that normally wouldn’t be doing something organized. But their brain waves are now obviously in synch — same frequency, same phase. Can it be denied that for this group of people, this is a positive experience?

Closely linked to the desire to belong to a group is the simulated enactment of a war: us versus them. Of course, politicians sometimes use this tribal mentality as a tool to manipulate the masses: to rally the people, identify a common enemy. It could be that spectator sports allow H. sapiens to work off their aggressions in a relatively innocuous way (spectator sports) rather than in an overtly destructive way (actual war). This was one of the underlying ideas of Rollerball:

In the very near future, they will produce a war every week during prime time and televise it to the rest of the world. They will call it Rollerball.

Here’s an old quote from Carl Sagan (according to and Google Books, it’s to be found on p. 367 or p. 369 of The Demon-Haunted World, but I can’t find my copy of that book; the quote apparently also appeared in a New York Times article that Sagan wrote in 1993, but I couldn’t find it in the New York Times’ online archive):

Football is a thinly disguised re-enactment of hunting; we played it before we were human.

I like this. From the names Offense and Defense, you’d think that it would be the offense that is “the hunter”. But no: it’s the defense. When the ball is in the hands of a running back with a battering-ram style, the defense is hunting a massive buffalo. If instead the running back’s style emphasizes speed and evasion, the defense is now hunting a jack rabbit. If the quarterback does a trick play, then the quarry becomes a wily fox. And if the quarterback instead resorts to a passing game, the quarry morphs into a bird.

Published in: on 22 March 2009 at 9:36 am  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy involved a futuristic science named psychohistory, which enabled one to predict the future history (economics, wars, mass migrations, societal rise and collapse) of large aggregates of people. (Hmm, that reminds me of my earlier post regarding anomalous synchronous behavior of large aggregates of the hominid H. sapiens.) […]

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