Knowledge Transmission: The Social Origin of Information and Cultural Evolution
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Living systems, besides acquiring information ontologically, i.e., as an inherent part of their nature, have the special ability to constantly incorporate the available data on their environment through learning (cognition). Therefore, cognition is one of the basic properties that characterize living beings, since even lesser organisms display some kind of learning. This chapter shares the opinion that “humans are a cultural species,” because much of human behavior is determined by an information system acquired via social transmission. It is assumed that humans are characterized by the display of behaviors derived from information processing of three distinct natures: ontological, those acquired by individual experience, and those acquired by social transmission. It is recognized that culture can evolve following Darwinian assumptions, and that knowledge transmission is one of the elementary processes in cultural evolution and in the relation between people and their understanding of nature. This chapter now turns to the three bases description of human information, and then it turns its attention to social knowledge transfer from an evolutionary perspective. Finally, we discuss how information transmission has been analyzed by ethnobiological studies and how it can be used to understand the evolutionary dynamics of social-ecological systems, drawing upon standard ethnobiological works.
KeywordsIndividual knowledge production Cultural transmission Social learning Ethnobiology
I thank Dr. Ulysses Paulino Albuquerque for his helpful comments on the several versions of this chapter.
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