We've discussed cultural evolution, and everyone knows about evolution by natural selection, but is something different happening now? Some people have said that we have transitioned to a different a third type of evolution, memetic evolution. Is this just an improvement to cultural evolution in the same way that cultural evolution was an improvement on genetic evolution? Or is it an entirely different beast? Does it allow us to adapt faster? Or does it make all adaptation more difficult?
It seems obvious that there are certain traditions which work to improve the survival of the culture in which they exist. It seems equally obvious that some traditions are pointless. How do we tell the difference? As it turns out it may be harder and take longer than you think. Also reason might help you less than you think. In this episode I consider four factors which might be helpful:
A review of Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis by Jared Diamond.
It's not Guns, Germs and Steel, but he does put forth an interesting list of factors for how nations successful navigate crisis. My assessment of these factors is that they're useful, but that they also serve to illustrate the depths of the current crises faced by the US and the world.
Lots of trends associated with the modern world seem to be increasing at an exponential rate. This includes things like energy use, CPU speed, and even scientific publications. But what if rather than being a exponential curve, all of these trends are really the bottoms of S-curves? Curves that start out looking like exponential curve, but which taper off at the top and plateau as constraints kick in. What would that mean for the ongoing progress people have come to count on, and what might be some potential examples of this?
I review a bunch of books: