When we started trading, we exchanged more than goods. We shared ideas. This helped create a sort of a collective consciousness. Ideas were like genes. Like diversity in a gene pool, these ideas blended together to help produce new ideas on improving life.
Ridley spends some time comparing the process to sex. I prefer not to explore that metaphor too far. It will only lead to “ewwwww” images.
This exchange is boosted by specialization. As we created professions and stuck to tasks, we got better at those tasks and innovating within those fields. This paragraph ties it up nicely:
In case you haven’t tied all this to modern life, Ridely explains why we should care:
Yes, all your Facebook and Twitter updates are contributing to human evolution and cumulative innovation.
This isn’t a stretch. The ability for people, goods and information to move freely is essential for any economy to prosper. The Internet is all about the exchange of information. Ideas don’t need to hitch a ride along the trade winds or a caravan. At any moment, millions of people are poised to debate and exchange information. In the real world, we have merchants heading for Asia to outsource our business. The innovation pool is deeper than it ever was.
It makes feel a little bit better about concerns about how we are disconnecting from our local communities (No one’s sitting on front porches anymore!) Maybe people are becoming less involved in their communities of geography. But they are devoting that time to communities of interest comprised of people potentially from around the globe.
You see the opportunity for evolution to repeat itself? We’re specializing our interests and tapping into an unprecedented collective knowledge.
I can’t imagine where this is going to lead anymore than a prehistoric man could when he carried a collection of hides to see what someone in the next tribe would give him for his bounty.