Technical reasoning bolsters cumulative technological culture through convergent transformations


  • Osiurak François
  • Claidière Nicolas
  • Bluet Alexandre
  • Brogniart Joël
  • Lasserre Salomé
  • Bonhoure Timothé
  • Di Rollo Laura
  • Gorry Néo
  • Polette Yohann
  • Saude Alix
  • Federico Giovanni
  • Uomini Natalie
  • Reynaud Emanuelle

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Understanding the evolution of human technology is key to solving the mystery of our origins. Current theories propose that technology evolved through the accumulation of modifications that were mostly transmitted between individuals by blind copying and the selective retention of advantageous variations. An alternative account is that high-fidelity transmission in the context of cumulative technological culture is supported by technical reasoning, which is a reconstruction mechanism that allows individuals to converge to optimal solutions. We tested these two competing hypotheses with a micro-society experiment, in which participants had to optimize a physical system in partial- and degraded-information transmission conditions. Our results indicated an improvement of the system over generations, which was accompanied by an increased understanding of it. The solutions produced tended to progressively converge over generations. These findings show that technical reasoning can bolster high-fidelity transmission through convergent transformations, which highlights its role in the cultural evolution of technology.

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