Friday, 7 September 2012

How culture drove human evolution - A Conversation with Joseph Henrich

The Edge has this recent interview - titled "How culture drove human evolution - A Conversation with Joseph Henrich [2012-09-04]"

It offers this video of Joe - complete with a transcript:

I noted several familiar themes. One was:

Part of my program of research is to convince people that they should stop distinguishing cultural and biological evolution as separate in that way. We want to think of it all as biological evolution.

That's been a theme here for a while - e.g. see: Contrasting culture and biology makes no sense.

Another was:

we've begun to pursue this idea called the cultural brain hypothesis—this is the idea that the real driver in the expansion of human brains was this growing cumulative body of cultural information

That's the "big brain" hypothesis of Blackmore and Dawkins that I've been talking about here for a while - in Big brains as meme nests and Tim Tyler: The big brain as a meme nest.

The title of "how culture drove human evolution" telates directly to Blackmore's "memetic drive" hypothesis - though somehow there is no mention of memes or Blackmore.

It's nice to see that researchers are finally converging on similar views - even if they don't always do a great job of giving each other credit.

Henrich says:

Another signature of cultural learning is regional differentiation and material culture, and you see that by about 400,000 years ago. So, you could have a kind of late emergence at 400,000 years ago. A middle guess would be 800,000 years ago based on the climate, and then the early guess would be, say, the origin of genus, 1.8 million years ago.
Yet chimps have culture. In my book I point out that walking is a culturally-transmitted trait that is many millions of years old. Baby slings are also pretty ancient. 1.8 million years ago is a remarkably recent guess.

No comments:

Post a Comment