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date: 25 June 2022

Abstract and Keywords

The evolution of complexity is one of the long-standing concerns of historical science, as well as being crucial to understanding the modern world and our future. This chapter explores the connection of complexity to energy gain, energy return on investment, and the energy–complexity spiral. The connection of energy gain to complexity is illustrated by case studies of fungus-farming ants and the Roman Empire. A comprehensive set of propositions explores the relationship of energy gain to complexity, evolution, resource use, system duration, and scarcity and abundance. These propositions can be applied to further research, and provide a framework for developing questions about cultural evolution and resource use. Finally, the relationship of energy gain to complexity is used to explore our future energy use and its relationship to land conversion, environmental damage, and return on alternative energy sources.

Keywords: complexity, cultural evolution, energy, energy gain, energy return on investment, alternative energy, Roman Empire

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