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Home Industry News Rising population leads to greater innovation

Rising population leads to greater innovation

5th June 2009

Explosions in human creativity and the development of new tools and skills are aided, not impeded, by increasing population, a new report claims.

A study carried out at University College London (UCL) and published in the journal Science found that a high population density has been key to the emergence of modern human behaviour.

Through implementing computer simulations of social learning, the UCL team found that complex skills are acquired and passed between generations only when there is a critical level of interaction between people.

Population density was estimated to be similar in sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and the Middle-East when modern behaviour first appeared in each of these regions.

As such, the development of modern human behaviour, whether through technological or cultural advances, is related less to sudden expansions in brain power than it is to a surge in population density and interaction between people.

Dr Mark Thomas, of the UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment department, explained: “When we think of how we came to be the sophisticated creatures we are, we often imagine some sudden critical change, a bit like when the black monolith appears in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

“In reality, there is no evidence of a big change in our biological makeup when we started behaving in an intelligent way. Our model can explain this even if our mental capacities are the same today as they were when we first originated as a species some 200,000 years ago.

“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.”

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