The mystery of evolution, creativity, and collective intelligence

If you look back over the past thousand or so years and compare it with one‒hundred thousand years ago, you’ll notice that innovation and change hasn’t occurred as it once did.

For centuries this decrease in creative productivity has puzzled researchers, historians, philosophers, psychologists, and general creative thinkers. What once fueled stone‒age man to adopt new tools and technologies has since fizzled into less of a powerful force. But why? Where has the creativity gone?

As it turns out, what fueled creativity through‒out evolution hasn’t gone anywhere, and it isn’t that big of a mystery after all.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Matt Ridley explains how trade, communities, and collective intelligence helped mankind creatively evolve. Ridley explains:

The answer lies in a new idea, borrowed from economics, known as collective intelligence: the notion that what determines the inventiveness and rate of cultural change of a population is the amount of interaction between individuals… . The explosion of new technologies for hunting and gathering in western Asia around 45,000 years ago, often called the Upper Paleolithic Revolution, occurred in an area with an especially dense population of hunter-gatherers – with a bigger collective brain.

Later in the article Ridley continues:

There’s a cheery modern lesson in this theory about ancient events. Given that progress is inexorable, cumulative and collective if human beings exchange and specialize, then globalization and the Internet are bound to ensure furious economic progress in the coming century – despite the usual setbacks from recessions, wars, spendthrift governments and natural disasters.

What can we learn from the article? How about the idea that trading ideas is powerful enough to change the world, and with the internet the ability to trade ideas is now easier than ever.

Creative revolution, here we come.