Alex Bentley is Chair of Anthropology at University of Tennessee, Knoxville. His new book with michael O'brien is: The Acceleration of Cultural Change: From ancestors to algorithms (MIT PRess, 2017)

The Acceleration of Cultural Change: From Ancestors to Algorithms

The Acceleration of Cultural Change: From Ancestors to Algorithms

The Acceleration of Cultural Change (MIT Press, Sept 2017) is a new book about humans moving from a long (pre)history of inheriting local traditions --ancestors-- to a world of passing along information that is sorted globally -- by algorithms.

Cultures were remarkably diverse in the past, because traditional knowledge was inherited through ancestors and was finely tuned to the local environment over many generations of slow cultural adaptation. Now, cultural transmission is driven more by recent  information, shared widely rather than locally, and accelerated to a point when knowledge creation has little connection with ancestral knowledge.

Much of the book is about the implications of these changes. The last chapter of the book covers how A.I. may bring about a new form of cultural evolution that once again builds on past knowledge, rather than just treading water.

Chance and evolution