When: 31.3.16, 16:00-17:00
Speaker: Professor William von Hippel (University of Queensland)
Title: The evolution of Innovation
Technical innovation – or the creation of new products – differentiates us from all other species, and has played a central role in creating the cognitive niche that we occupy. Yet, despite its centrality to our species and our daily lives, most people rarely if ever innovate new products. To address this puzzle I consider our evolutionary history, and how it might have created a species whose members are highly innovative but also highly unlikely to innovate new products. The social brain hypothesis of human cognitive evolution suggests that our minds evolved to innovate, but with a social rather than a technical orientation. According to this perspective, it is primarily people who are less socially oriented such as high functioning individuals on the autism spectrum, who innovate technically. Consistent with this possibility, 1) engineers and physical scientists are more likely to be autistic and more likely to innovate new products than people in the humanities and social sciences, and 2) men are more likely to be autistic and more likely to innovate new products than women.