The Secret of Our Success - How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter
How much do I want to read more? 7/10
The author's style is very verbose and unecessarly complicated in the Introduction, but it's getting lighter and better starting chapter 1 of the book.
Make me think of "Sapiens".
It says human became superior because we are a cultural species which build knowledge upon the last generation and pass it to the next.
Taken individually, a human couldn't figure out everything in his lifetime.
The first interesting concept is that we alone are nothing. It our interconection with our peers, our ancestors, the mix of social interconection that produce our strength.
That's why the saying "standing on the shoulders of giants" is so important, why gratitude is important, why success is related with serving others, why solitude leads to suffering. Because we are made to interact, to connect, to serve, and to pass our wealth to our peers and to the next generation.
We humans are not like other animals.
How could evolution have produced such a creature, and how does answering this question help us understand human psychology and behavior?
to understanding people’s decisions and behavior.
how humans went from living in relatively small-scale societies to complex nation-states over the last ten millennia.
I read books on cognitive psychology, decision-making, experimental economics, biology, and evolutionary psychology.
I also read a lot by the psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky.
I’m more convinced than ever that to understand our species and to build a science of human behavior and psychology, we need to begin with an evolutionary theory of human nature.
CHAPTER 1 - A PUZZLING PRIMATE
You and I are members of a rather peculiar species.
We are not particularly good at climbing trees. Any adult chimp can readily overpower us, and any big cat can easily run us down, though we are oddly good at long-distance running and fast, accurate throwing.
We are dependent on eating cooked food, though we don’t innately know how to make fire or cook.
Unlike other apes, females of our kind remain continuously sexually receptive throughout their monthly cycle and cease reproduction (menopause) long before they die.
despite our oversized brains, our kind are not that bright. at least not to explain the immense success of our species.
The secret of our species’ success lies not in our raw, innate, intelligence. Our ability to survive is not due to our individual brainpower.
Our species—unlike all others—has evolved an addiction to culture.
techniques, heuristics, tools, motivations, values, and beliefs that we all acquire while growing up, mostly by learning from other people.
we are a cultural species.
members of our evolutionary lineage began learning from each other in such a way that culture became cumulative.
That is, hunting practices, tool-making skills, tracking know-how, and edible-plant knowledge began to improve and aggregate—by learning from others—so that one generation could build on and hone the skills and know-how gleaned from the previous generation.
natural selection had to favor individuals who were better cultural learners.
fire, cooking, cutting tools, clothing, simple gestural languages, throwing spears, and water containers, became the sources of the main selective pressures that genetically shaped our minds and bodies.
The secret of our species’ success resides not in the power of our individual minds, but in the collective brains of our communities. Our collective brains arise from the synthesis of our cultural and social natures—from the fact that we readily learn from others (are cultural) and can, with the right norms, live in large and widely interconnected groups (are social).
the antibiotics and airplanes of the modern world, emerge not from singular geniuses but from the flow and recombination of ideas, practices, lucky errors, and chance insights among interconnected minds and across generations.
when small communities suddenly become isolated, their technological sophistication and cultural know-how begins to gradually ebb away.
innovation in our species depends more on our sociality than on our intellect, and the challenge has always been how to prevent communities from fragmenting and social networks from dissolving.
Why do languages with larger communities of speakers have more words, more sounds (phonemes), and more grammatical tools?
products of cultural evolution:
base-10 counting system, numerals for easy representation, a vocabulary of at least 60,000 words, concepts of pulleys, springs, screws, bows, wheels, levers, and adhesives.
we don’t have these tools, concepts, skills, and heuristics because our species is smart; we are smart because we have culturally evolved a vast repertoire.
Culture makes us smart.