Farnam Street helps you make better decisions, innovate, and avoid stupidity.

With over 350,000 monthly readers and more than 88,000 subscribers to our popular weekly digest, we've become an online intellectual hub.

Wired for Culture: Mark Pagel Explains our Social Culture

How did our species develop a mind that is hardwired for culture-and why?

“…at no greater time in history than ever before, copiers are probably doing better than innovators.”

In a recent video (below) posted on edge.org Mark Pagel, Professor of Evolutionary Biology, Reading University, offers a hypothesis on the downside of interconnectedness — A topic covers in greater detail in his forthcoming book “Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind“.

A tiny number of ideas can go a long way, as we’ve seen. And the Internet makes that more and more likely. What’s happening is that we might, in fact, be at a time in our history where we’re being domesticated by these great big societal things, such as Facebook and the Internet. We’re being domesticated by them, because fewer and fewer and fewer of us have to be innovators to get by. And so, in the cold calculus of evolution by natural selection, at no greater time in history than ever before, copiers are probably doing better than innovators. Because innovation is extraordinarily hard. My worry is that we could be moving in that direction, towards becoming more and more sort of docile copiers.

In July 2011 Pagel spoke at TEDGlobal, where he delivered a fascinating talk on the complex system of language. Pagel suggests that language is a piece of “social technology” that allowed early human tribes to access a powerful new tool: cooperation.

Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind attempts to answer a difficult question: How did our species develop a mind that is hardwired for culture-and why?