Cumulative culture is the engine that drives the remarkable power of the global human computer. It enables societies to act as extremely powerful computers by ratcheting up technological and other cultural innovations. Once culture can accumulate, the ability of a society to maintain and spread complex technologies is directly related to the size of the population and its connectivity with other populations, finessing the strict limits on individual intelligence. Larger and more connected societies can maintain more complex technologies. This also means that sudden isolation or a drop in population size can lead to a loss of technology. In this chapter we first discuss how cumulative culture increases the evolutionary fitness of a population of social learners. We then focus on complex technology as a marker of cumulative cultural evolution, and discuss how technological complexity increases when cultures are both more populous and more connected. We discuss the fragility of our modern complex societies in response to disasters that may shrink the population or isolate groups. We end with a discussion of how our cultural norms and institutions shape the problems tackled by the global human computer.
Research Professor on society, culture, art, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, neuroscience, autopoiesis, self-organization, complexity, systems, networks, rhizomes, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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