12 February 2013, 5.30 PM
'What can engineers learn from archaeology and anthropology about sustainable systems of the past to inform current and future efforts in sustainable development? '
Alex Bentley will discuss how humans human technology and adaptive capability has evolved through a series of major transitions in information storage and communication. The first was the appearance of language, which enabled communication between brains, the second was information storage outside the brain, first expressed in the “Upper Paleolithic Revolution” and later in the form of writing, and later mass media. The third tipping point was the appearance of technology capable of accumulating and manipulating vast amounts of information outside humans, thus removing them as bottlenecks to a seemingly self-perpetuating process of knowledge explosion. Besides just the examples of past sustainable systems (early agriculture, etc.), this long view of human cultural evolution informs a more general question: has the Information Age facilitated innovation, or is it overwhelming our ability to discern what is important?