Aunger speaks, London 11th November

From: derek gatherer (
Date: Tue 05 Nov 2002 - 11:25:00 GMT

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    Autumn Term 2002

    11th November 4-6pm. Institute of Archaeology Room 612 AHRB Centre for the Evolutionary Analysis of Cultural Behaviour

    Major transitions in technology
                                                          Dr. Rober Aunger
                                                           Cambridge University

       In this lecture, I ask the question 'How did physical objects become so complex?' To answer this question, I use a recent theory developed to explain
       long-term biological evolution: major transition theory (MTT; Maynard Smith and Szathmary 1995). MTT is primarily concerned with identifying and
      analyzing discontinuities in the way evolution works. These transitions change the nature of the game Nature is playing - they are changes in the process
      of evolution itself. This is because new levels of organization (like cells or multicellular organisms) arise which change the way in which information is
       transmitted or stored for transmission into the future. Using this theory, I discuss technological advances that introduce significant developments in the
       ability of artifacts to manage information. The number of inventions that qualify turns out to be rather small - although they cover the whole globe and
      millions of years of time. The transitions identified range from early tools (the first artifacts to store information outside the brain), to cave paintings (the
          first artifacts to accommodate iconic representations of information), to astronomical monuments like Stonehenge (the first artifacts to process
      information), to computers (the first artifacts to perform symbolic manipulations of information). I conclude by discussing the implications of this view of
                                                           technological history.

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