University of Reading

Mark Pagel

2013 Digital Societies

Mark Pagel is Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Reading, UK, and Member of the Science Board at Santa Fe Institute, USA. He builds statistical models to examine the evolution of our “cultural DNA”, an approach which might provide answers to questions, such as ‘what if we stopped innovating in the real world, becoming more followers than leaders, copiers rather than innovators?’. As he argues in his book Wired for Culture: The Natural History of Human Cooperation, our culture has surpassed genes in determining who we are and how we live. Human language is the most evident testament to the uniqueness of our social learning capability among all the living species – it establishes long-lasting patterns just like our genes. Mark Pagel predicts that in the near future the already rare quality of innovation and creative leadership will become even scarcer. In an era when social networks connect a global community, fewer and fewer of us will pay the cost of innovating and will rather copy someone else’s ideas.

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