The best thing here at OAC is that anyone can write a blog post or a comment or a discussion topic about anything as long as there's a discernible anthropology in it. Other anthropology sites are too academic and formal; thus the posts and the comments seemed restrained, awfully familiar, and vanilla--that's not out of the box. It makes me wonder if anthropologists in those sites are really sharing their best or if they are being careful not to sound unprofessional or come out unacademic. The tone of their discussions and the depth of their arguments are no different to what one experiences in a graduate seminar run by a boring professor. I don't see passion, intensity, raw ideas, fresh thinking in their pages. If these forums were films, I would consider OAC an alternative or indie film. I hope Keith will continue running this site with such spirit.
I'm not being dismissive of other sites without basis. Last night I could not sleep and continue working on my latest project: a clay sculpture of a distorted face, an ashtray. So, I read the old posts I missed during my long hiatus from OAC. One blogger consumed most of my time. I went to bed full of thoughts, one of which was my newfound appreciation for OAC. If decades from now (and I'll still be alive) future anthropologists (if there will be) will apply mathematics in anthropology the way most do now with French theories, I'll be able to say: "A guy named Michael Alexeevich Popov bombarded us with mathematical and computational anthropology at OAC before you were born."
Although I seldom see a comment under his posts, I appreciate his intensity and passion towards his difficult subject. His post under discussion, P vs NP Problem, made me browse Wikipedia all night and write this blog post. P vs NP asks "whether every problem whose solution can be quickly verified by a computer can also be quickly solved by a computer." "Quickly" means "the existence of an algorithm for the task that runs in polynomial time." Can we apply the concepts in this problem in our analyses of how long it will take us to know the death or failure of a culture or a community and how long it will take us to save it? It's interesting how "polynomial time" is qualitatively understood in Cobham's thesis. It is synonymous to "tractable", "feasible", "efficient", or "fast"--qualities we can use in time and efficiency-based problems in socio-cultural studies. My understanding of P vs NP is shallow and very little, but I already see concepts that are applicable in anthropology. I can't help but ask if algorithm for culture change is possible.
When I started here maybe three years ago, I was addicted to systems and models. I also wrote about Social Physics and my wishful statement about the possibility of applying the Laws of Physics in the study of culture. I still have the same questions now but not necessarily laws like the ones in Thermodynamics. So let me start. Can we apply Stress Terms from Mechanics of Materials or the simple formula for pressure (force/area) from high school Physics in analyzing economic stress or cultural pressure? Force can be poverty or religious fundamentalism or gangsterism, and area can be a community, a village or a city. Can we quantify economic stress and cultural pressure? I doubt a simple formula will do the job. Will the mathematics for complex systems work?
Anthropologists can be too wordy, repetitive, and long-winded especially if they are filling a required number of pages. Can Foundations of Mathematics be used as another language that simplifies concepts and clarifies logic? Maybe an Euler Diagram (imagine a small circle--subset--within a big circle--superset) from Set Theory can be a precise representation of a marginalized group within a marginalized community or a moderate group within a conservative political party. I know this is basic and has been done before in social sciences, but can we use the advance, complex stuff? For sure, culture is a complex system that controls chaos with groupings and categories. There are variables and constants in culture too. Can they be expressed mathematically?
I don't pretend to know all the answers, and I'm too old to go back to my high school dream of solving one of the prized conjectures. The thought that maybe anthropology students in the future will have the chance to choose Theoretical Anthropology as a field of expertise or even an undergraduate course, where they will study Physical Anthropology (not the biological one), Computational Anthropology, Mathematical Anthropology, and Systems Anthropology, tickles my dreamy mind. Maybe this will be the cutting edge in anthropological theories that will replace and bury Postmodernism, Poststructuralisn, and Postcolonialism for good.