Joe Henrich on Cultural Evolution

Episode link:

Youtube link:

Joe Henrich is Professor and Chair of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University. He has written two books that have been incredibly eye-opening for me: The Secret of Our Success and the WEIRDest People in the World. Joe has put cultural evolution on the map as the best way for understanding why the world looks the way it does today.
In the interview we cover:
-How cultures are a statistical concept and what philosophers get wrong when analyzing culture
-What culture ‘wants’
-What is the speed minimum of innovation?
-Are there things we can do to accelerate cultural evolution further?
-How should we analyze subcultures?
-Is Insurance really the fundamental application for culture?

Why did I do this show? Joe is an absolute intellectual heavyweight in Sociology. This is a dream interview for me!

What did I learn? This is a bit meta but I was fascinated by Joe’s intellectual discipline. He never really strays from the research much as I tried to lure him to speculate about all kinds of ideas adjacent to his research but mostly undiscovered territory. How infrequently cultural evolution has been applied to business. More to come on this I promise you!

What was my favorite part? Easy, I got Joe to not disagree with my view that insurance is the most fundamental use of culture.


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