Copiers

We can observe our tendency to be copiers rather than innovators whenever we are confronted with situations or questions we don’t know how to address. In those circumstances we typically do what others do. So, the answer to what pension product to get, or what mortgage to buy, which dishwasher is best or how to escape from a fire in a large building, is that we often just do what the majority of others do. And there is even a logic in this. In a harsh world, if an idea has survived long enough that large numbers are using it, it is probably a reasonable idea.

In most aspects of our life, then it could be said that most of us are little more than glorified karaoke singers, or ardent followers of “likes”. Our tendency to be copiers rather than innovators is why ideas and technologies accumulate gradually rather than in great leaps. In this regard cultural evolution is surprisingly like genetic evolution. It has taken around a billion years of generic evolution to move from single-cell organisms like yeast to the almost unimaginably complex multicellular organisms that we are. Genetic evolution has no foresight. It bumbles along by randomly producing a variety of forms and then relying on natural selection - survival of the fittest - to sift among alternatives, retaining the best ones. As a consequence, like cultural evolution, the history of life also shows few big leaps. You Are Not as Clever as You Think, Mark Pagel