Cultural Evolution & Its Discontents: A Book Talk
When: Monday, January 27, 2020 12:00 pm
Where: Kaplan Hall 193
People worry that computers, robots, interstellar aliens, or Satan himself – brilliant, stealthy, ruthless creatures – may seize control of our world and destroy what’s uniquely valuable about the human race. Cultural Evolution and its Discontents shows that our cultural systems – especially those whose last names are “ism” – are already doing that, and doing it so adeptly that we seldom even notice. Like other parasites, they’ve blindly evolved to exploit us for their own survival. Creative arts and humanistic scholarship are our best tools for diagnosis and cure.
Anyone who has wondered how our species can be so brilliant and so stupid at the same time may find an answer here: human mentalities are so complex that we crave the simplifications provided by our cultures, but the cultures that thrive are the ones that blind us to any interests that don’t correspond to their own.
In this interdisciplinary book talk, the author Robert Watson, Distinguished Professor of English, in conversation with Professors Jan Reiff from History and Clark Barrett from Anthropology, will explore the creative and humanistic avenues that may shed light on our cultural addiction to ideological parasites.