Cultural Evolution in the Digital Age

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* Book: Cultural Evolution in the Digital Age. by Alberto Acerbi. Oxford University Press, 2019


"With Cultural Evolution in the Digital Age, Acerbi joins the likes of Peter Turchin, David Sloan Wilson, and Joseph Henrich in offering an engaging and accessible application of cultural evolutionary models". [1]


Joshua C. Jackson:

"Given the influence of digital media, studying cultural evolution in the digital age is an important venture, and Alberto Acerbi’s book does the topic justice. Near the beginning of Cultural Evolution in the Digital Age, Acerbi demonstrates the im-pact of digital life by showing how the simple process of writing a sentence has been transformed. Whereas sentences used to be written linearly—with one word coming after another—most of us write completely differently now, jumping back and forth as we go and using spellchecks and thesauruses to add flair and precision. Later in the book, Acerbi points out how lost one of our early ancestors would be if they were transported to the present day. These examples help underscore how quickly our world is changing, and how we need social science to make sense of this change. Yet with change comes stability. This is perhaps the main message of Acerbi’s book, and he argues at length that the digital age is characterized by the same principles of cultural evolution that characterized the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, and every other age of human history. “Prestigious” people still have more influence than non-prestigious people. Common beliefs are still more persuasive than rare beliefs. There is still a limit to our social connections. We still interact mostly with others who are similar to us. And we still love to consume and share gossip. Acerbi uses this message to cleave through many familiar myths about digital media."


Source: Jackson, Joshua Conrad. 2020. New Technology, Same Culture. A Review of Cultural Evolution in the Digital Age. by Alberto Acerbi (Oxford University Press, 2019). Cliodynamics11 (1): 51–53