Information supply and demand: Resolving Sterelny's paradox of cultural accumulation

Gene-Culture Coevolution (GCC) theory is an intriguing new entry in the quest to understand human culture. Nonetheless, it has received relatively little philosophical attention. One notable exception is Kim Sterelny’s (2006) critique which raises three primary objections against the GCC account. Most importantly, he argues that GCC theory, as it stands, is unable to resolve “the paradox of cultural accumulation” (151); that while social learning should generally be prohibitively expensive for the pupils, it nonetheless occurs as the principle means of disseminating novel information through a culture. Sterelny holds that this is best explained by supplementing the GCC models with strong cultural group selection pressures. I argue that this is not needed. To show this I elaborate upon Joseph Henrich and Francisco Gil-White’s (2001) information goods theory, developing it in terms of the market pressures that one would expect to find in an information economy. I indicate how such pressures contribute to an individual-level explanation of cultural accumulation that answers Sterelny’s concerns.
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