Impact of Tool Use and Technology on the Evolution of the Human Mind

Event Dates: 
Oct 12, 2018 -
1:00pm to 5:30pm

Co-sponsored by the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA) and the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind (KIBM)

We “behaviorally modern humans” likely emerged more than 100,000 years ago in Africa, spread across that continent and eventually all over the planet, effectively replacing all closely related potentially competitive species. Among many possible explanations, one key to our consistent success in such replacement was the ongoing interactive gene-culture co-evolution of the human brain mind with tool use and technology that began much earlier––ranging all the way from simple stone tools millions of years ago, to computers today. This symposium will address this important gene-culture co-evolutionary process in anthropogeny at all levels, ranging from molecules to brain imaging––beginning with the potential link between early stone tool use and the parallel expansion of the human brain, to the control of fire and the invention of projectile weapons, all the way through reading and writing to current day technologies such as computers and 3D reality––perhaps with a look to the potential future of the human mind, under the impact of continually evolving culture. Appropriate comparisons with other living and extinct species would be included, as will attention to other relevant cognitive features unusually well-developed in humans, such as language, theory of mind and cooperation. An underlying question relevant to anthropogeny was first posed by Wallace: how did the human mind originally evolve such remarkable capabilities in Africa, “in advance of its needs”? After all, even today no human is born with the genetic capability to make even simple stone tools?

UCSD-TV Broadcast Note: The videos of the talks delivered at this symposium will be broadcast on UCSD-TV in early December 2018. After these presentations are aired, they will be archived on this webpage, as well as at the UCSD-TV, iTunes, and YouTube websites. If you would like to be notified of the TV broadcast dates and online availability, be sure to set up a User Account on the CARTA website here. We will send an email announcement to all CARTA Users shortly before the air dates in December.

Event Sessions

Media for each talk can be played by clicking on icons in the "Media" column, or by clicking on the individual talk titles below and then the attachment file at the bottom of the page.

Date Media Session Title Speakers Abstract Location
Fri 10/12 File Welcome & Opening Remarks Ajit Varki, Tim White Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 10/12 File Culture, Demography and Patterns of Human Genetic Diversity Marcus Feldman

Advances in DNA genotyping and sequencing technology have led to an upsurge in studies of “polygenic” influences on many human behavioral traits. In this talk, I will discuss how human cultural... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 10/12 File Tool Use by Non-Human Primates Dorothy Fragaszy

Humans have used tools since the dawn of our species. Evidence is accumulating that extinct hominins also used stones as tools, apparently in ways similar to how a few species of primates in South... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 10/12 File Early Hominin Stone Tools Dietrich Stout

The simple fact of tool-making no longer provides a sharp dividing line between “Man the Tool-Maker” and the rest of the animal world. It is now clear that many other species make and use tools,... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 10/12 File The Combinatorial Creature: Cortical Phenotypes Within and Across Lifetimes Leah Krubitzer

The neocortex is one of the most distinctive structures of the mammalian brain, yet also one of the most varied in terms of both size and organization. Multiple processes have contributed to this... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 10/12 File Behavioral Modernity vs. Complexity: What Stone Tools Teach Us John Shea

European paleoanthropologists developed the behavioral modernity metaphor in the 1970s, when it became clear that the archaeological record for human origins in Europe 45,000 years ago differed... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 10/12 File Writing and Reading: The Evolution of Social Media Paula Tallal

Language co-evolved with the human brain throughout the evolution of Homo sapiens. Writing, on the other hand, is a relatively new technology that was invented by humans to translate spoken... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 10/12 File Quantity, Number, and Mathematics Rafael Núñez

Mathematics is one of the most sophisticated, precise, and abstract conceptual edifices humankind has ever created, supporting science, technology, economics, and deep philosophical investigations... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 10/12 File Digital Technologies and the Development of the Human Mind Candice Odgers

Adolescents spend an average of 6 to 8 hours online and in front of screens each day for non-school related tasks. Globally, one in three internet users worldwide are under the age of 18. Yet the... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 10/12 File The Collective Brain Joseph Henrich

Long before the origins of agriculture or the rise of the first cities, our species spread out across the globe into an immense diversity of environments, from the frozen tundra of Siberia to the... more

Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium
Fri 10/12 File Wrap-up, Question and Answer Session, Closing Remarks All Speakers, Pascal Gagneux Salk Institute - Conrad T. Prebys Auditorium

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