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DySoC/NIMBioS Seminar Series

DySoC and NIMBioS are hosting a series of seminars on topics related to social complexity. Monthly seminars will be held at NIMBioS in Room 206, Claxton Building, 1122 Volunteer Blvd. Light refreshments will be served in Room 205 beginning 30 minutes before each talk. Faculty and students from across the UT community are welcome to join us.

A. Bentley photo.

Speaker: Dr. Alex Bentley, Anthropology, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville; Center for the Dynamics of Social Complexity (DySoC)

Time/Date: Wednesday, February 14, 2018, 3:30 p.m.*

Location: Room 206, Claxton Building, 1122 Volunteer Blvd.

Topic: The acceleration of cultural evolution

Abstract: For millennia, sociocultural complexity increased (and occasionally decreased) gradually over many human generations, as people inherited traditional knowledge within kin-based local communities. In these settings, where knowledge was shared within populations and across generations, selection was probably the key driver in norms of human adaptive behavior. In the 21st century, however, knowledge is transmitted across populations and within generations—and evolutionary patterns may resemble random drift more than selection in increasingly many settings. To span these different scales and modes of cultural evolution, different representations are useful, including fitness landscapes and a heuristic representing the transparency of payoffs in social learning. I will use these approaches to discuss how cultural evolution may have profoundly changed—from adaptive selection towards drift—from the ancient past to present-day.

Dr. Alex Bentley began as the new head of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in fall 2017. His research focuses on interdisciplinary analysis of culture change, past and present, and involves methodologies in archaeological and computational social science. These two streams of research, comparing patterns of cultural change across thousands of years, are integrated in his book, co-authored with Michael O'Brien, The Acceleration of Cultural Change: From Ancestors to Algorithms (MIT Press, 2017). Bentley has a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin and taught at University College London, Durham University, the University of Bristol and the University of Houston.

*Join us for refreshments at 3 p.m.

Seminar Flyer (pdf)

Video icon. Watch seminar online. This seminar was streamed live. Live-streamed seminars are archived for later viewing on NIMBioS' YouTube channel.

For more information about this and other NIMBioS Seminars, visit /announcements/seminars.

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From 2008 until early 2021, NIMBioS was supported by the National Science Foundation through NSF Award #DBI-1300426, with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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