Economic Exchange as an Evolutionary Transmission Channel in Human Societies
Joint Research Centre
January 1, 2012
This paper argues that the (epi)genetic, cultural, symbolic, and environmental transmission channels are insufficient to explain the structure of modern human societies. Economic exchange of knowledge embodied in goods and services constitutes an additional transmission channel that makes more efficient use of limited human cognitive capacity. Economic exchange results in a gradual shift in societies from task-based division of labor to cognitive specialization. This shifts scarce cognitive resources away from production and into learning. It accelerates learning and reinforces the drive towards specialization. Cognitive specialization may constitute another 'major transition' towards a higher level of aggregation in human societies, with properties that differ from symbolic transmission.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 31
Keywords: evolutionary economics, evolutionary biology, new synthesis, transmission channels, symbolic transmission, niche construction, division of labour, specialization, cognitive capacity
JEL Classification: B25, B52
Date posted: February 6, 2012 ; Last revised: May 17, 2013