A tiny number of ideas can go a long way, as we've seen. And the Internet makes that more and more likely. What's happening is that we might, in fact, be at a time in our history where we're being domesticated by these great big societal things, such as Facebook and the Internet. We're being domesticated by them, because fewer and fewer and fewer of us have to be innovators to get by. And so, in the cold calculus of evolution by natural selection, at no greater time in history than ever before, copiers are probably doing better than innovators. Because innovation is extraordinarily hard. My worry is that we could be moving in that direction, towards becoming more and more sort of docile copiers.
MARK D. PAGEL is a Fellow of the Royal Society and Professor of Evolutionary Biology; Head of the Evolution Laboratory at the University of Reading; Author Oxford Encyclopaedia of Evolution; co-author of The Comparative Method in Evolutionary Biology. His forthcoming book is Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind.
[MARK PAGEL:] I'm an evolutionary biologist, and my work draws me to the big events that have shaped the history of the world. Some of these we agree upon, and others are right under our noses, and yet we take them for granted and we may not appreciate what a force they've been in our evolution. One of those is the human capacity for culture. It might easily be the most important event in the history of life.