The Evolution of Hierarchy

December 20, 2014



Two weeks ago I went to a studio in Amherst, MA, to participate in a BBC Forum on Hierarchy. It was broadcasted last week, and you can listen to it here. I arrived at the studio in plenty of time, but there were inevitable SNAFUs. First, I couldn’t get into the building (not sure why […]

Posted in: Blogs

Does Affluence Lead to Asceticism? Part II

December 16, 2014



Comments on Part I tended to take a rather negative view of the argument advanced by Baumard et al. Thus, Gene Anderson questioned whether Confucianism is even a religion. It was certainly a moralistic teaching, but how important a role did supernatural agents play in it is very much in question. Furthermore, Confucianism, as far […]

Posted in: Blogs

Does Affluence Lead to Asceticism? Part I

December 14, 2014



In a news article published by this week’s Science magazine, Wealth may have driven the rise of today’s religions, Lizzie Wade writes: Today’s most popular religions all have one thing in common: a focus on morality. But the gods didn’t always care whether you are a bad person. Researchers have long puzzled over when and […]

Posted in: Blogs

“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future”

December 10, 2014



In the process of doing ‘research’ (well, googling) for my blog about innovations, elites, and flying cars, I stumbled on this wonderful project jointly produced by Gregory Benford and Popular Mechanics: The Future That Never Was: Pictures from the Past. Gregory Benford is an author working within the genre of hard science fiction (I had […]

Posted in: Blogs

When Did the Great Compression Begin?

December 1, 2014



Gary Feinman’s proposal that trends in economic inequality have a strong effect on who benefits from the technological innovations has resulted in a very lively discussion. Most comments seem to agree that there is definitely something to it, but question the details. In particular, when did the surge in labor-saving and convenience-creating technologies began? And […]

Posted in: Blogs

Where Is My Flying Car?

November 30, 2014



Last week I was in Berlin where I gave a talk in the conference on Contextualising Technical Innovations in Prehistory. The declared focus of the conference was on the evolution of technology in the 4th and 3rd millennia BC, but many of the presentations ranged much more widely, and a few even connected the Bronze […]

Posted in: Blogs

Carl Coon. One Step at a Time

November 21, 2014


Evolution is a process that proceeds incrementally, one step at a time. One thing leads to another. This is true for all kinds of evolution. Living things evolve through natural selection, with small changes between generations leading to larger changes through many generations. Cultural artifacts, such as automobiles and telephones, evolve through many small, intentional […]

Posted in: Guest Blogs

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