Chapter 8 considers what cultural evolutionists call cumulative cultural evolution, that is, the idea that culture increases in complexity. For a cultural domain being defined as cumulative, it needs to show accumulation (more traits), improvement (traits are more efficient), and ratcheting (new traits build on previous innovations). The author proposes that this is not a necessary outcome, and that different domains show different signs of cumulation. It is suggested that the fidelity and the hyper-availability provided by digital media allow for more cumulation in domains where it was limited before. Not surprisingly, they also allow for the retention of vast amounts of useless information—junk culture. A central challenge for the coming years is thus finding efficient mechanisms of online cultural selection. Algorithmic selection is finally discussed, along with how mainstream criticisms, such as the fact that algorithms are biased or opaque to users, are not decisive arguments against their efficacy and utility.
Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.