Flexible learning, rather than inveterate innovation or copying, drives cumulative knowledge gain
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Human technology is characterized by cumulative cultural knowledge gain, yet researchers have limited knowledge of the mix of copying and innovation that maximizes progress. Here, we analyze a unique large-scale dataset originating from collaborative online programming competitions to investigate, in a setting of real-world complexity, how individual differences in innovation, social-information use, and performance generate technological progress. We find that cumulative knowledge gain is primarily driven by pragmatists, willing to copy, innovate, explore, and take risks flexibly, rather than by pure innovators or habitual copiers. Our study also reveals a key role for prestige in information transfer.
Miu , E , Gulley , N , Laland , K N & Rendell , L 2020 , ' Flexible learning, rather than inveterate innovation or copying, drives cumulative knowledge gain ' , Science Advances , vol. 6 , no. 23 , eaaz0286 . https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aaz0286
Copyright © 2020 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 (CC BY). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
DescriptionE.M. was supported by John Templeton Foundation Grant #40128 “Exploring the Evolutionary Foundations of Cultural Complexity, Creativity, and Trust” and the University of St Andrews School of Biology. L.R. was supported by the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTs) pooling initiative funded by the Scottish Funding Council (grant reference HR09011).
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