The Secret to Innovation Is Our Collective Brain


The secret of our success: How culture is driving human evolution, domesticating our species, and making us smarter, Author: Joseph Henrich.
My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions, Author: Alfred Russel Wallace.

By Connair Russell and Michael Muthukrishna – Innovations occur when previously isolated ideas meet. From the innovator’s perspective, it’s an independent discovery, but from the perspective of the collective brain, it is an inevitable consequence of spreading ideas that converge across an entire social system—a veritable “marketplace of ideas.”

Three key factors driving the rate of innovation:

  • sociality:
    Sociality refers to the degree to which society facilitates connections between people. Larger, more interconnected societies will have higher sociality, resulting in everyone being exposed to more people and more ideas.
  • transmission fidelity:
    Higher transmission fidelity means more information is transmitted when people learn from each other.
  • cultural variance:
    Cultural variance refers to the variety of ideas that are created and tested.

From blue collar to white collar jobs, from the media we consume to expectations for self-presentation, the processes of cultural evolution are making society more complex. The modern educational institution emerged as a response to the Industrial Revolution; we are currently going through the Information Revolution—a revolution of at least equal importance.

All the while, the collective brain is making each of us smarter. more>

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