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Cultural EvolutionSociety, Technology, Language, and Religion$
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Peter J. Richerson and Morton H. Christiansen

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780262019750

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262019750.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MIT PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mitpress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The MIT Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MITSO for personal use.date: 27 May 2022

The Cultural Evolution of Technology

The Cultural Evolution of Technology

Facts and Theories

(p.119) 7 The Cultural Evolution of Technology
Cultural Evolution

Robert Boyd

Peter J. Richerson

Joseph Henrich

The MIT Press

The gradual cumulative cultural evolution of locally adaptive technologies has played a crucial role in our species’ rapid expansion across the globe. Until recently, human artifacts were not obviously more complex than those made by organisms that lack cultural learning and have limited cognitive capacities. However, cultural evolution creates adaptive tools much more rapidly than genetic evolution creates morphological adaptations. Human tools are finely adapted to local conditions, a fact that seems to preclude explanations of cultural adaptation based on innate cognitive attractors. Theoretical work indicates that culture can lead to cumulative adaptation in a number of different ways. There are many important unsolved problems regarding the cultural evolution of technology. We do not know how accurate cultural learning is in the wild, what maintains cultural continuity through time, or whether cultural adaptation typically requires the cultural transmission of causal understandings. Published in the Strungmann Forum Reports Series.

Keywords:   evolution of technology, adaptive tools, cultural adaptation, cumulative adaptation, cultural transmission

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