Hypothesis 17

The end of brain growth

Uru Island, traders, Lake Titicaca, Peru
Uru Island, traders, Lake Titicaca, Peru

The beginning of the hominid brain network is the observed end of brain growth at the onset of Homo sapiens about 250,000 years ago.

The individual hominid brain does not need to grow because it communicates with other brains and outsources tasks and knowledge to the brains of other individuals: in other words, because it can form a network.


Merlin Donald speaks a lot about the network and the necessity to overcome the fixation on the individual.

Uru Island, Village Square, Lake Titicaca, Peru
Uru Island, Village Square, Lake Titicaca, Peru

But for him the network is objectively connected to the level of human culture:

With children, the acquisition of symbolic skills progresses from the outside to the inside. Therefore, their evolutionary development must have been in the same direction. Symbolic thinking and language are, by their very nature, phenomena that are founded in networks.

We therefore cannot explain their existence on the basis of the model of the solipsistically encapsulated individual. A paradigm shift is required. It needs to leave behind the prevailing theories of human evolution, according to which language has developed in the closed shell of the brain, that is, from the inside out. (p. 264)

Donald recognised that the scientific view of the individual or a group of individuals is insufficient and that in humans, the relationships between the individual group members are absolutely crucial.

Continue reading “289”



The fact that people form networks is probably not a very unique idea but rather a more commonplace one.

Reed soil, houses and boats, Lake Titicaca, Peru
Reed soil, houses and boats, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Evolutionary research talks a lot about groups, group activities, and joint actions but little about networks.

The focus is on the individual that we encounter in its archaeological remains and whose linguistic and cultural abilities are discussed within the contexts of being an individual and as part of the social group.

The concept of the network goes beyond the concept of the group, in that it addresses the individual group members in their individuality as well as their different relationships within the group.

Michael Tomasello talks a lot about the group and common activities and the common intentionality of prehistoric peoples. However, his argument appears to me to lack differentiation into distinguishable individuals with networks.

When determining the group size and the explanation, Robin Dunbar shows that he considers the number of relationships within the group without thinking about a possible network.


Hypothesis 16

Brain and network

Uru Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru
Uru Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru

The brain of an individual, previously only responsible for the integrity of its own individual, is given the additional function of enabling contact with the brains of other individuals in intentional communication, thereby circumventing its own limitations.

This results in an evolutionary change of function and an evolutionary innovation. The brains of individuals in the social group form a network, just as PCs make up a network.

And just as a network consisting of many PCs can solve tasks that would overburden the individual PC, a network of many human brains can solve larger tasks than a single brain.

The network is created to circumvent the natural limits of brain growth (hypothesis 11) a second time. It is created before the beginning of mind and culture and is also arranged in front of them as their prerequisite.