Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse


Université Toulouse 1 Capitole
1, esplanade de l'Université
31080 Toulouse Cedex 06

Cultural evolution
Length of internship
French or English (english required for team meetings)
Over the course of our evolutionary history, technology has affected all facets of human life: our bodies, our brains, our social lives, and our environments. Hunting devices have increased access to high energy food and powered our species’ massive encephalization. Boats have allowed us to cross ecological barriers and colonize new environments. Shared symbolic systems have expanded our capacity to share resources and promoted cooperative interactions between unrelated individuals. Cultural norms, religions, and laws have helped regulate our social life, modified power structures and given rise to unique forms of social organization. Whether they are material or immaterial, technologies are seldom, if ever, the result of flashes of genius on the part of gifted individuals. Instead, they are built cumulatively from earlier solutions. They are typically the product of decades, centuries or even millennia of cultural evolution and embody the effort of successive generations of innovators. The internship may address questions such as: • How is technology designed, tweaked, and improved over time? • To what extent do pre-existing solutions constrain the future direction of change? • How does technology spread within and between social groups? • Which environmental and social conditions are especially conducive of the evolution of technology? • To what extent does technology change the parameters of its own evolution by affecting the way we process, share, and store information? • Or any other questions investigating the evolution of technology, defined as the sum of techniques, skills, methods, and processes used in the production of products or services or in the accomplishment of objectives.