Economics Guest Speaker Seminar

Friday, October 11, 2013
3:00 PM - 6:00 PM
McLaren Conference Center 250 - Venue
Event Type
Events and Lectures
Hayes, Catrina

Speaker:  Joe Henrich from the University of British Columbia

Presentation Title: The Secret of our Success


Long before the origins of agriculture or the emergence cities, our species spread out across the globe into an immense diversity of environments, from the frozen tundra of Siberia and the arid deserts of Australia to the malarial swamps of New Guinea and the tropical forest of South America. Our immense ecological success in these environments depends not our vaulted intelligence or rationality, or any array of local genetic adaptations as in other species. Instead, human survival and success depends on the inheritance of large bodies of non-genetic culturally-transmitted information that accumulates and aggregates, often through largely unconscious cultural learning processes. The evolution of complex cultural products, which include sophisticated technologies, extensive number systems and intricate practices (e.g., food processing techniques), is heavily influenced by the open flow of cultural information among individuals, suggesting that the size and social interconnectedness of populations should be causally linked to the accumulation of cultural know-how, the size of its toolkits, and the sophistication of its technology. This view of humans suggest that understanding the origin and rate of innovation requires—in part—focusing on sociality, on the nature of human social relationships, networks and population structures. This talk will review theory and evidence related to this approach.   

This Seminar is sponsored by the Economics Department. For questions regarding this event, please contact Catrina Hayes at or (415) 422-2765

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