Session Summary

Our Collective Brain is a cumulative body of cultural information, built through cultural adaptation.

Humans thrive by depending on our Collective Brain.

Our Collective Brain is a collection of knowledge, or what is known as our Culture, that we have accumulated over time. We depend on each other to survive by learning from one another.

Compared to other species, humans are better at social learning.

Humans learn by observing what others do and adapt the best practices from our Culture. Social learning as a cultural adaptation can also happen at a subconscious level.

What allows us to build a Collective Brain is our ability to accumulate knowledge over time, spanning generations.

Therefore, we tend to get better over time when we learn from groups as opposed to learning from individuals.

Our Collective Brain depends on the size and interconnectedness of the group.

The larger the population and the more inter-connected they are, the larger their Collective Brain can grow.

Societies with larger Collective Brains result in more experimentation and innovation. For example, past societies in islands with larger population and greater interaction with neighbouring islands tend to have a larger number of complex tools. Similarly, larger cities in the US spur more innovation as evidenced by the higher number of patents concentrated in those cities.

Drawing from our Collective Brain allows us to innovate by combining existing technologies to solve problems.

As we grow up with more exposure to diverse technologies and ideas, it becomes easier for us to combine existing ideas, resulting in more complex technologies. It tends to be easier to innovate with existing ideas as opposed to starting from scratch.

Larger societies with better interconnectedness can slow down the decay of knowledge of a society.

In a steady-state, societies find themselves at an equilibrium level of knowledge sustained by their size and interconnectedness.

We shape our Collective Brain, and in turn, we are shaped by it.

Our Collective Brain is defined both by Genetic-Cultural Co-Evolution.

We biologically adapt to cultural evolutions, while cultural practices also evolve to fit our brains. For example, the human brain grew in size as we acquire and store more information.

Culture becomes more refined as the Collective Brain grows.

Take language for example. Larger speaking communities can maintain more words and phonemes, and they tend to communicate more efficiently.

Trust becomes an important commodity for a society to grow their Collective Brain.

When members of society trust each other, knowledge-sharing and innovation become more prevalent, and hence societies progress faster.