High population density fosters innovation, development

June 5th, 2009 - 4:06 pm ICT by IANS  

London, June 5 (IANS) High population density, rather than brain power, catalyzes greater exchange of ideas and skills and preserves new innovations.
A University College of London (UCL) team has found that complex skills learnt across generations can only be maintained when there is a critical level of interaction between people.

Using computer simulations of social learning, they showed that high and low-skilled groups could co-exist over long periods and that the degree of skill they maintained depended on local population density or the degree of migration between them.

Using genetic estimates of population size in the past, the team went on to show that density was similar in sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and the Middle-East when modern behaviour first appeared in each of these regions.

The paper also points to evidence that population density would have dropped for climatic reasons at the time when modern human behaviour temporarily disappeared in sub-Saharan Africa.

Adam Powell, Assisted Human Reproduction Centre for the Evolution of Cultural Diversity, (Canada) says: “Our paper proposes a new model for why modern human behaviour started at different times in different regions of the world, and why it disappeared before coming back.

“By modern human behaviour, we mean a radical jump in technological and cultural complexity, which makes our species unique,” added Powell, according to a UCL release.

Mark Thomas from UCL says: “Ironically, our finding that successful innovation depends less on how smart you are than how connected you are seems as relevant today as it was 90,000 years ago.”

These findings were published in the journal Science.

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