- Last 7 days
- Title: The genetic and cultural evolution of unsustainability
Author: Brian F. Snyder
- Anthropogenic changes are accelerating and threaten the future of life on earth.
- While the proximate mechanisms of these anthropogenic changes are well studied
- climate change,
- biodiversity loss,
- population growth
- the evolutionary causality of these anthropogenic changes have been largely ignored.
- Anthroecological theory (AET) proposes that the ultimate cause of anthropogenic environmental change is
- multi-level selection for niche construction and ecosystem engineering.
- Here, we integrate this theory with
- Lotka’s Maximum Power Principle
- and propose a model linking
- energy extraction from the environment with
- genetic, technological and cultural evolution
- to increase human ecosystem carrying capacity.
- Carrying capacity is partially determined by energetic factors such as
- the net energy a population can acquire from its environment and
- the efficiency of conversion from energy input to offspring output.
- These factors are under Darwinian genetic selection
- in all species,
- but in humans, they are also determined by
- technology and
- If there is genetic or non-genetic heritable variation in
- the ability of an individual or social group
- to increase its carrying capacity,
- then we hypothesize that - selection or cultural evolution will act - to increase carrying capacity.
- Furthermore, if this evolution of carrying capacity occurs
- faster than the biotic components of the ecological system can respond via their own evolution,
- then we hypothesize that unsustainable ecological changes will result.
- niche construction
- The genetic and cultural evolution of unsustainability
- gene-culture coevolution
- evolution of our polycrisis
- Brian F Snyder
- cumulative cultural evolution
- conscious cumulative cultural evolution
- Anthroecological theory
- evolution of polycrisis
- human niche construction
- evolution of the anthropocene
It’s possible, the researchers suggest, that the appearance of human culture represents a key evolutionary milestone.
- key observation
- human culture may represent a key evolutionary milestone
- culture may be the next evolutionary transition state
- pre-single self organisms like mitochondria increased fitness by sharing the environment with other life forms and formed the single cell
- then multi-cellular organisms set the stage for the next big evolutionary paradigm
- splitting into plants and animals
- sexual reproduction
- transition to land
- we are possibly undergoing the next major evolutionary transition
- in which we will still evolve genetically,
- but genetics may not determine human survival as much as culture does
- key observation
As a consequence of sociocultural niche construction, humans have become a global force of nature – for better and for worse. It is only by embracing these sociocultural realities that we might shape better futures for both humans and non-human species alike.
// In Other Words
- we must undo the myopic cultural evolution that has already taken place with a more collectively conscious form of cultural evolution //
Gene–culture coevolution and the nature of human sociality
- Title: Gene–culture coevolution and the nature of human sociality
- Author: Herbert Gintis
//Abstract - Summary - Human characteristics are the product of gene–culture coevolution, - which is an evolutionary dynamic involving the interaction of genes and culture - over long time periods. - Gene–culture coevolution is a special case of niche construction. - Gene–culture coevolution is responsible for: - human other-regarding preferences, - a taste for fairness, - the capacity to empathize and - salience of morality and character virtues.
- Title: Human niche construction in interdisciplinary focus
- Jeremy Kendal
- Jamshid J. Tehrani
- John Oding-Smee
- Niche construction is an endogenous causal process in evolution,
- reciprocal to the causal process of natural selection.
- It works by adding ecological inheritance,
- comprising the inheritance of natural selection pressures previously modified by niche construction,
- to genetic inheritance in evolution.
- Human niche construction modifies selection pressures in environments in ways that affect both human evolution, and the evolution of other species.
- Human ecological inheritance is exceptionally potent
- because it includes the social transmission and inheritance
- of cultural knowledge, and material culture.
- Human genetic inheritance
- in combination with human cultural inheritance
- thus provides a basis for gene–culture coevolution,
- and multivariate dynamics in cultural evolution.
- Niche construction theory potentially integrates the biological and social aspects of the human sciences.
- We elaborate on these processes,
- and provide brief introductions to each of the papers published in this theme issue.
- The exhibition of increasingly intensive and complex niche construction behaviors through time
- is a key feature of human evolution,
- culminating in the advanced capacity for ecosystem engineering exhibited by Homo sapiens.
- A crucial outcome of such behaviors has been the dramatic reshaping of the global biosphere,
- a transformation whose early origins are increasingly apparent
- from cumulative archaeological and paleoecological datasets.
- Such data suggest that, by the Late Pleistocene,
- humans had begun to engage in activities
- that have led to alterations in the distributions of a vast array of species
- across most, if not all, taxonomic groups.
- Changes to biodiversity have included
- extirpations, and
- shifts in species
- diversity, and
- community structure.
- We outline key examples of these changes,
- highlighting findings from the study of new datasets, like
- ancient DNA (aDNA),
- stable isotopes, and
- microfossils, as well as
- the application of new statistical and computational methods to datasets that have accumulated significantly in recent decades.
- We focus on four major phases that witnessed broad anthropogenic alterations to biodiversity:
- the Late Pleistocene global human expansion,
- the Neolithic spread of agriculture,
- the era of island colonization, and
- the emergence of early urbanized societies and commercial networks.
- Archaeological evidence documents millennia of anthropogenic transformations
- that have created novel ecosystems around the world.
- This record has implications for:
- ecological and evolutionary research,
- conservation strategies, and
- the maintenance of ecosystem services,
- pointing to a significant need for broader cross-disciplinary engagement between:
- the biological sciences and
- the environmental sciences.
Ecological consequences of human niche construction: Examining long-term anthropogenic shaping of global species distributions
- Title: Ecological consequences of human niche construction: Examining long-term anthropogenic shaping of global species distributions
- Nicole L. Bolvin
- Melinda A. Zeder
- Dorian O. Fuller
- Michael D. Petraglia
- Feb 2023
- Timothy Morton's concept of = hyperobject
- can be interpreted as reflections of alienation
- emerging out of rapid cumulative cultural evolution
- that has made our cognitive machinery genetically evolved and adapted to small group living ( within Dunbar's number) over hundreds of thousands of years
maladaptive to our too-quickly-culturally-evolved modernity
This paper is relevant to understanding
- it introduces me to a number of new useful concepts
- cognitive advantage
- cultural network analysis
- more detailed understanding of memetics
- cultural epidemiology
- = human being's = altricial nature - is an = evolutionary adaptation
- resulting in exceptional = complex social learning
- tradeoff of helplessness at birth
- is complex social learning
- that enables cumulative cultural evolution
Humans are especially good at filling new ecological niches “because we have the capacity to learn how to survive in new environments,” Goldstein said. “Once your parents learn an adaptive skill, you’ll learn from them. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
- = cumulative cultural evolution
- humans excel at surviving in = novel ecological niches
- because we share information with each other
- = cumulative cultural evolution - prevents us
- from = reinventing the wheel
- Dec 2022
cultural evolution can lead to genetic evolution. "The classic example is lactose tolerance," Waring told Live Science. "Drinking cow's milk began as a cultural trait that then drove the [genetic] evolution of a group of humans." In that case, cultural change preceded genetic change, not the other way around.
!- example of : cultural evolution leading to genetic evolution - lactose intolerance
But nowadays, humans mostly don't need to adapt to such threats genetically. Instead, we adapt by developing vaccines and other medical interventions, which are not the results of one person's work but rather of many people building on the accumulated "mutations" of cultural knowledge. By developing vaccines, human culture improves its collective "immune system,"
!- in other words : cumulative cultural evolution
The longer it prevails, the more likely we will suffer catastrophic failure as a species here on earth. While this would be a tragedy of huge proportion for humans, we will take thousands, perhaps millions, of other species down with us.
!- equivalent to : cumulative cultural evolution (CCE) - the cultural activity of our species will determine not only or species fate, but that of all other species in the biosphere through the complex webs of entangled life or collective human behaviour will impact
So to the people listening or watching this, what kind of closing thoughts do you have to summarize what we just talked about and to leave them to think about or apply to their own lives? 01:17:49 Simon Michaux: So I would say to them that they're in better shape than anyone before, even as scary as it is and the unknown we're walking into. And there is no one plan. So like diversity of species in a jungle environment is a strength for the long-term survival of that jungle, diversity of ideas have the same strengths. 01:18:13 So we need them all for our long-term survival. We can't face one consensus, it's just like a broad brush direction. So we've got to put these ideas out there and discuss amongst ourselves. And understand that this is very, very challenging, and none of us actually know what we need to do. 01:18:37 Even though our skills are not necessarily what we need. We're almost like a blank canvas in terms of skills. But in terms of our self knowledge and our ability to think, our opinions mean something. We believe in human rights. We have education. Men and women are educated now. So we are in better shape now than we've ever been. 01:19:04 Instead of banging on about the problems and our past failings, we should probably try to face the future with open hearts, and actually think positive with the understanding that this is going to be rough.
!- Futures Thinking : summary - our generation has the most wisdom to deal with the problem, even though it is an unprecedented problem - We need diversity of opinions and perspectives. Like in evolution, that diversity will emerge an optimal solution - To consciously culturally evolve, we need to put all ideas on the table and discuss openly - An open, interpersonal, people-centered knowledge ecosystem such as Indyweb is suitable for such a process
what our work is showing is very soon it can't. And so it's going to go through a death throws and any organism it will fight to survive. And so yes, there will be pushback and resistance. And so what I'm proposing is a plan, whether that plan gets carried out or whether it's 00:37:22 allowed to be carried out, that's a different matter.
!- Social Superorganism : Biological Survival metaphor - the current social superorganism is fighting to survive as it's life is threatened by the transformation - the metamorphosis will transform it to group 4, if successful
- Jun 2022
evolution works on a much longer time scale right than than 00:35:09 any given life and so we need to we rely pretty heavily on helpful social norms right these cultural norms that actually teach us the right way to engage with each other and that can transcend any 00:35:22 one generation um and you know we worked really hard um in the west you know not just i mean this has happened everywhere but it you know we're where we're from um to acquire norms from from that we would 00:35:35 have called you know liberal democracy right that tolerance and respect and and these things and individual rights and you know it you see those things start to erode now and you start to see some of that base 00:35:48 nature taking back over the tribalism and the seeing the other as the enemy um the outgrouping of people and it we know from history it doesn't end well there right like the erosion of these norms 00:36:02 not only will continue to exacerbate collective illusions they i i think they're the biggest threat to free society that we face in a very long time yeah yeah you made a very convincing case for that
Biological evolution works on relatively long time scales. Cultural evolution works on very short time scales. If we do not seriously listen to the lessons of history that teach valuable social norms, then we don't learn from history and history repeats.
- Nov 2021
Professional musicians, concert pianists get to know this instrument deeply, intimately. And through it, they're able to create with sound in a way that just dazzles us, and challenges us, and deepens us. But if you were to look into the mind of a concert pianist, and you used all the modern ways of imaging it, an interesting thing that you would see 00:11:27 is how much of their brain is actually dedicated to this instrument. The ability to coordinate ten fingers. The ability to work the pedal. The feeling of the sound. The understanding of music theory. All these things are represented as different patterns and structures in the brain. And now that you have that thought in your mind, recognize that this beautiful pattern and structure of thought in the brain 00:11:52 was not possible even just a couple hundred years ago. Because the piano was not invented until the year 1700. This beautiful pattern of thought in the brain didn't exist 5,000 years ago. And in this way, the skill of the piano, the relationship to the piano, the beauty that comes from it was not a thinkable thought until very, very recently in human history. 00:12:17 And the invention of the piano itself was not an independent thought. It required a depth of mechanical engineering. It required the history of stringed instruments. It required so many patterns and structures of thought that led to the possibility of its invention and then the possibility of the mastery of its play. And it leads me to a concept I'd like to share with you guys, which I call "The Palette of Being." 00:12:44 Because all of us are born into this life having available to us the experiences of humanity that has come so far. We typically are only able to paint with the patterns of thoughts and the ways of being that existed before. So if the piano and the way of playing it is a way of being, this is a way of being that didn't exist for people 5,000 years ago. 00:13:10 It was a color in the Palette of Being that you couldn't paint with. Nowadays if you are born, you can actually learn the skill; you can learn to be a computer scientist, another color that was not available just a couple hundred years ago. And our lives are really beautiful for the following reason. We're born into this life. We have the ability to go make this unique painting with the colors of being that are around us at the point of our birth. 00:13:36 But in the process of life, we also have the unique opportunity to create a new color. And that might come from the invention of a new thing. A self-driving car. A piano. A computer. It might come from the way that you express yourself as a human being. It might come from a piece of artwork that you create. Each one of these ways of being, these things that we put out into the world 00:14:01 through the creative process of mixing together all the other things that existed at the point that we were born, allow us to expand the Palette of Being for all of society after us. And this leads me to a very simple way to go frame everything that we've talked about today. Because I think a lot of us understand that we exist in this kind of the marvelous universe, 00:14:30 but we think about this universe as we're this tiny, unimportant thing, there's this massive physical universe, and inside of it, there's the biosphere, and inside of that, that's society, and inside of us, we're just one person out of seven billion people, and how can we matter? And we think about this as like a container relationship, where all the goodness comes from the outside to the inside, and there's nothing really special about us. 00:14:56 But the Palette of Being says the opposite. It says that the way that we are in our lives, the way that we affect our friends and our family, begin to change the way that they are able to paint in the future, begins to change the way that communities then affect society, the way that society could then affect its relationship to the biosphere, and the way that the biosphere could then affect the physical planet 00:15:21 and the universe itself. And if it's a possible thing for cyanobacteria to completely transform the physical environment of our planet, it is absolutely a possible thing for us to do the same thing. And it leads to a really important question for the way that we're going to do that, the manner in which we're going to do that. Because we've been given this amazing gift of consciousness.
The Palette of Being is a very useful idea that is related to Cumulative Cultural Evolution (CCE) and autopoiesis. From CCE, humans are able to pass on new ideas from one generation to the next, made possible by the tool of inscribed language.
Peter Nonacs group at UCLA as well as Stuart West at Oxford research Major Evolutionary Transitions (MET) West elucidates that modern hominids integrate the remnants of four major stages of MET that have occurred over deep time. Amanda Robins, a researcher in Nonacs group posits the idea that our species of modern hominids are undergoing a Major Systems Transition (MST), due specifically to our development of inscribed language.
CCE emerges new technologies that shape our human environments in time frames far faster than biological evolutionary timeframes. New human experiences are created which have never been exposed to human brains before, which feedback to affect our biological evolution as well in the process of gene-culture coevolution (GCC), also known as Dual Inheritance theory. In this way, CCE and GCC are entangled. "Gene–culture coevolution is the application of niche-construction reasoning to the human species, recognizing that both genes and culture are subject to similar dynamics, and human society is a cultural construction that provides the environment for fitness-enhancing genetic changes in individuals. The resulting social system is a complex dynamic nonlinear system. " (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3048999/)
This metaphor of experiences constituting different colors on a Palette of Being is a powerful one that can contextualize human experiences from a deep time framework. One could argue that language usage automatically forces us into an anthropomorphic lens, for sophisticated language usage at the level of humans appears to be unique amongst our species. Within that constraint, the Palette of Being still provides us with a less myopic, less immediate and arguably less anthropomorphic view of human experience. It is philosophically problematic, however, in the sense that we can speculate about nonhuman modalities of being but never truly experience them. Philosopher Thomas Nagel wrote his classic paper "What it's like to be a bat" to illustrate this problem of experiencing the other. (https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/iatl/study/ugmodules/humananimalstudies/lectures/32/nagel_bat.pdf)
We can also leverage the Palette of Being in education. Deep Humanity (DH) BEing Journeys are a new kind of experiential, participatory contemplative practice and teaching tool designed to deepen our appreciation of what it is to be human. The polycrisis of the Anthropocene, especially the self-induced climate crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic have precipitated the erosion of stable social norms and reference frames, inducing another crisis, a meaning crisis. In this context, a re-education of embodied philosophy is seen as urgent to make sense of a radically shifting human reality.
Different human experiences presented as different colors of the Palette of Being situate our crisis in a larger context. One important Deep Humanity BEing journey that can help contextualize and make sense of our experiences is language. Once upon a time, language did not exist. As it gradually emerged, this color came to be added to our Palette of Being, and shaped the normative experiences of humanity in profound ways. It is the case that such profound shifts, lost over deep time come to be taken for granted by modern conspecifics. When such particular colors of the Palette of Being are not situated in deep time, and crisis ensues, that loss of contextualizing and situatedness can be quite disruptive, de-centering, confusing and alienating.
Being aware of the colors in the Palette can help us shed light on the amazing aspects that culture has invisibly transmitted to us, helping us not take them for granted, and re-establish a sense of awe about our lives as human beings.
- Gene culture coevolution
- peter nonacs
- Cumulative Cultural Evolution
- Major Evolutionary Transition
- What it's like to be a bat
- Thomas Nagel
- Major System Transition
- Stuart West
- Deep Humanity
- Amanda Robins
- palette of being
- BEing Journey