Only connect

“Only connect!”  – E.M. Forster

Matt Ridley has written a great piece in the Wall Street Journal (thanks to @allinthemind for pointing me to the article), which discusses the link between creativity and the evolution of humans.  Why did human culture, society minds and language suddenly evolve so rapidly and at the same time (starting around half a million years ago)?  Matt Ridley claims (rightly I believe) that the key factor was interaction between individuals (especially when from different cultures and locations) – what he calls “collective intelligence” – which accelerated developments beyond anything that would have happened naturally (creating a revolution rather than an evolution).

Development of the use of tools is particularly important, and something which is strongly linked to the developments in consciousness and language development. One of the key roles of consciousness is to help humans form an internal representation of their bodies to create a mental model of our interactions with the outside world (which I will write about in the next piece), and this is the key to using tools effectively (and a key difference between humans and other animals).  Moreover, interaction spurred specialisation and trade of skills and production of tools.  The optimistic conclusion is that recent developments in knowledge sharing and travel driven by technology can only further enhance our collective intelligence.

Creativity and innovation are driven by collective intelligence – by interaction between different ideas, different cultures, different skills, different categories and, most importantly, different people.  Above all, only connect!


Humans: Why They Triumphed, The Wall Street Journal, 22 May 2010

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