cross-posted at Shared Symbolic Storage
In this post I will offer a short overview of some aspects of Michael
Tomasello’s latest book „Why We Cooperate,” which is based on his 2008 Tanner Lectures on Human Values.
Tomasello deals with the question how cooperative behaviour and its socio-cognitive foundations arise both in development and during the evolution of the human species. His short text is accompanied by four short commentaries by leading scholars who contributed in important ways to the theory of the evolution and ontogenetic development Tomasello espouses here. These are: psychologist Carol S. Dweck, anthropologist Joan B. Silk, philosopher Brian Skyrms and developmental psychologist Elizabeth Spelke.
In this post I only want to briefly summarize some of the key tenets of Tomasello’s book to offer an introduction to his work on cooperation, whose main impetus it is to have a closer look at the relatively simple and primal cooperative and interactive social behaviour that builds the foundation of human culture.
Continue reading “Michael Tomasello – Why We Cooperate”
This week we all get to learn a new word, the potential origins of the written word and killing at a distance. Enjoy!
- Archaeogenetics — yet another call for multi-discipline research? Yes, and the latest issue of Current Biology has a load of free (yes, free) papers on archaeogenetics. I haven’t had chance to read all of them, but it’s certainly worth checking out these two: Archaeogenetics — towards a ‘New Synthesis’? and The Genetics of Human Adaptation: Hard Sweeps, Soft Sweeps, and Polygenic Adaptation.
- New Scientist discusses research into the discovery of primitive writing systems from 35,000 years ago. Obviously, this has massive implications for those of us who thought the seeds of writing were only starting to emerge approximately 5000-years-ago. The key paragraph: “What emerged was startling: 26 signs, all drawn in the same style, appeared again and again at numerous sites (see illustration). Admittedly, some of the symbols are pretty basic, like straight lines, circles and triangles, but the fact that many of the more complex designs also appeared in several places hinted to von Petzinger and Nowell that they were meaningful – perhaps even the seeds of written communication.” They’ve also got some pretty pictures.
- If you’re looking for good news regarding the economy, then don’t go over to Washington’s Blog. He has a short post on Alan Greenspan’s assertion that we’re in the worst financial crisis ever.
- I’ve been reading a lot of articles over at the brilliant blog, Emergent Fool. Of particular interest are posts relating to my recent article on cumulative culture and coordinated behaviour: Rafe Furst discusses three types of cooperation, cultural agency and complex systems concept summary. Meanwhile, Plektix writes about how human cultural transformation was triggered by dense populations.
- Emergent Fool also led me to an in-depth essay by Professor Yaneer Bar-Yam on emergence and complexity: complexity rising: from human beings to human civilization, a complexity profile.
- Lastly, American Scientist has a podcast on the evolution of the human capacity for killing at a distance. Here’s the summary: “Duke University anthropologist Steven Churchill presents his research on the evolutionary origins of projectile weaponry, and how weapon use changed interactions between humans and other species—including, perhaps, the Neandertals.”
In the deliberations over humanity and its perceived uniqueness, a link is frequently made between our ability to support a rich, diverse culture and the origin of complex human behaviour. Yet what is often overlooked in our view of these two, clearly connected phenomena is the thread that weaves them together: the ability to coordinate behaviour. We need only look at the products of our culture, from language to religion, to see that any variant we may deem successful is contingent on coordinating the behaviour of two or more individuals. Still, what is truly illuminating about this ability is that, far from being a uniquely human feature, the ability to coordinate behaviour is ubiquitous throughout the many organismal kingdoms.
Continue reading “Cumulative Culture Evolved to Rapidly Coordinate Novel Behaviours”