New paper/Nouvelle publication

My paper ‘All innovations are equal, but some more than others: (Re)integrating modification processes to the origins of cumulative culture’ has been published in Biological Theory. (pdf)

Mon article ‘All innovations are equal, but some more than others: (Re)integrating modification processes to the origins of cumulative culture’ a été publié dans Biological Theory. (pdf)

Abstract
The cumulative open-endedness of human cultures represents a major break with the social traditions of nonhuman species. As traditions are altered and the modifications retained along the cultural lineage, human populations are capable of producing complex traits that no individual could have figured out on its own. For cultures to produce increasingly complex traditions, improvements and modifications must be kept for the next generations to build upon them. High-fidelity transmission would thus act as a ratchet, retaining modifications and allowing the historical build-up of complex traditions. Mechanisms acting against slippage are important, of course, but cultures also need to move forward for the ratchet to retain anything valuable. In this paper, I argue that studies of modification-generating processes and the many ways they shape cumulative culture have been overlooked. Key to a better understanding of cultural modification processes is taking seriously that cultural traditions consist of complex, hierarchically-structured recipes. Taking such structures seriously and assessing the different ways they can vary in cultural design space, a novel picture for the onset of cumulative cultural evolution emerges. I argue that a possible impediment for cumulative culture in non-human animals may in fact reside not so much on the fidelity of their social transmission but rather on the constraints, internal and external, of their capacity to modify complex, hierarchically-structured cultural recipes.

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New postdoc/Nouveau postdoc

From September 2015 to August 2017, I will be pursuing a Technology Studies PostDoc at the Central European University (CEU), in Budapest. My project is part of the Science Studies Program and concerns distributed cognition in science. My research will focus on the diachronic aspects of the formation, transformation, and dissolution of distributed cognitive systems in science, especially in paleoarchaeological research, and the role of the introduction of novel technologies (e.g., objective dating methods, computers, etc.) in changing such systems. I am currently affiliated with both the Philosophy and Cognitive Science departments. Moreover, I am now a member of the Social Mind Center (Somics) also based at the CEU.

De septembre 2015 à août 2017, je serai chercheur post-doctoral en Technology Studies à la Central European University (CEU), à Budapest. Mon projet s’intègre au Science Studies Program et concerne la cognition distribuée en science. Ma recherche focalise sur les aspects diachroniques de la formation, transformation, et dissolution de systèmes de cognition distribuée en science, et plus particulièrement en paléoarchéologie. De plus, je m’intéresse au rôle de l’introduction de nouvelles technologies (ex: méthodes de datation objectives, ordinateurs, etc.) comme agents de transformation de ces systèmes de cognition distribuée. Je suis actuellement affilié aux départements de Philosophie et de Sciences Cognitives. De plus, je suis également membre du Social Mind Center (Somics), lui-aussi au CEU.

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Webinar Contribution

I contributed to an online book club event at the International Cognition and Culture Institute on Thom Scott-Phillips’ recent book “Speaking Our Mind“. See my contribution here.

J’ai contribué à un club de lecture en ligne à l’International Cognition and Culture Institute au sujet du récent livre de Thom Scott-Phillips intitulé “Speaking Our Mind“. Vous pouvez lire ma contribution ici.

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New paper/Nouvelle publication

My paper ‘Mapping complex social transmission: Technical constraints on the evolution of cultures’ has been published in Biology & Philosophy. (pdf)

Mon article ‘Mapping complex social transmission: Technical constraints on the evolution of cultures’ a été publié dans Biology & Philosophy. (pdf)

Abstract
Social transmission is at the core of cultural evolutionary theory. It occurs when a demonstrator uses mental representations to produce some public displays (utterances, behaviors, artifacts, etc.) which in turn allow a learner to acquire similar mental representations. Although cultural evolutionists do not dispute this view of social transmission, they typically abstract away from the multistep nature of the process when they speak of cultural variants at large, thereby referring both to variation and evolutionary change in mental representations as well as in their corresponding public displays. This conflation suggests that differentiating each step of the transmission process is redundant. In this paper, I examine different forms of interplay between the multistep nature of social transmission and the metric spaces used by cultural evolutionists to measure cultural variation and to model cultural change. I offer a conceptual analysis of what assumptions seem to be at work when cultural evolutionists conflate the complex causal sequence of social transmission as a single space of variation in which populations evolve. To this aim, I use the framework of variation spaces, a formal framework commonly used in evolutionary biology, and I develop two theoretical concepts, ‘technique’ and ‘technical space’, for addressing cases where the complexity of social transmission defies the handy assumption of a single variation space for cultural change.

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New paper/Nouvelle publication

My review of Linnda R. Caporael, James R. Griesemer, and William C. Wimsatt (eds.): Developing scaffolds in evolution, culture, and cognition has been published in  History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences. (pdf)

Mon compte-rendu de Linnda R. Caporael, James R. Griesemer, and William C. Wimsatt (eds.): Developing scaffolds in evolution, culture, and cognition a été publié dans History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences. (pdf)

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New paper/Nouvelle publication

My paper ‘Populations without Reproduction’ has been published in Philosophy of Science. (pdf)

Mon article ‘Populations without Reproduction’ a été publié dans Philosophy of Science. (pdf)

Abstract
For a population to undergo evolution by natural selection, it is assumed that the constituents of the population form parent-offspring lineages, that is, that they must reproduce. I challenge this assumption by dividing the notion of reproduction into two subprocesses, that is, multiplication and inheritance, that produce parent-offspring lineages between the parts of a population, and I show that their population-level roles, generation and memory, respectively, can be effected by processes that do not rely on such locallevel lineages. I further argue that these two population-level processes, not local parent-offspring lineages, are necessary conditions for a population to undergo Darwinian evolution.

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New paper/Nouvelle publication

My paper ‘The cognitive life of mechanical molecular models’ has been published in Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences. (pdf)

Mon article ‘The cognitive life of mechanical molecular models’ a été publié dans Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences. (pdf)

Abstract
The use of physical models of molecular structures as research tools has been central to the development of biochemistry and molecular biology. Intriguingly, it has received little attention from scholars of science. In this paper, I argue that these physical models are not mere three-dimensional representations but that they are in fact very special research tools: they are cognitive augmentations. Despite the fact that they are external props, these models serve as cognitive tools that augment and extend the modeler’s cognitive capacities and performance in molecular modeling tasks. This cognitive enhancement is obtained because of the way the modeler interacts with these models, the models’ materiality contributing to the solving of the molecule’s structure. Furthermore, I argue that these material models and their component parts were designed, built and used specifically to serve as cognitive facilitators and cognitive augmentations.

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