Economic exchange as an evolutionary transmission channel in human societies

 

Economic exchange as an evolutionary transmission channel in human societies

Bertin Martens (European  Commission)

 

 

Abstract: 

This paper argues that the well-established channels of evolutionary transmission, such as (epi)genetic, cultural, symbolic and environmental transmission, 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 pushes human societies into cognitive specialisation among individuals.  It also gradually shifts scarce cognitive resources away from production and into learning.  Cognitive specialisation may constitute another “major transition” towards a higher level of aggregation in human societies, with properties that differ from symbolic transmission. 

 

 

Bertin Martens is Deputy Chief Economist in the directorate-General for Trade in the European Commission. He has done various assignments in the European Commission, working extensively on international economic policy issues. He also worked as a consultant for the UN and other organisations. He holds a PhD in economics from the Free University of Brussels and has been a visiting research fellow at several universities including Stanford and George Mason. His research has focused on institutions, cognition and economic development.