Paleolithic Punctuations and Equilibria: Did Retention Rather Than Invention Limit Technological Evolution?
Journal article, 2011
Although the ability to add knowledge and the ability to retain knowledge are both (trivially) preconditions of cumulative evolution, the latter has so far been largely neglected in cultural evolution. As we here focus on the ability of cultures to retain a long-term memory, what emerges is that the propensity for introducing error in information transmission between generations strictly bounds the volume of information that can be stably maintained over time. What is argued and demonstrated here is how this phenomenon could provide key insights about tempo and mode in Paleolithic technological evolution. The application of this patch to the basic Darwinian framework
causes its predictions to shift in an interesting way: 1) a large and growing body of archaeological finds that seem
outright mysterious today begin to make theoretical sense, and, 2) the importance and role of cognitive capabilities
changes considerably as the ability to learn and teach (rather than to invent and comprehend) is emphasized.