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Major transitions in evolution: a Bayesian phylogenetic approach

  • Dr. Kit Opie
donderdag 19 april 2018
Van Steenis
Einsteinweg 2
2333 CC Leiden
Room E001


The MSc in Media Technology and the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science (LIACS) have the pleasure to welcome Dr Kit Opie in Leiden. You are cordially invited to join his public lecture on Thursday April 19th starting at 16:15 in room E001 of the Van Steenis Building. The lecture is part of the annual Social Technologies Student Symposium.

A Bayesian phylogenetic approach

Kit Opie is affiliated to University College London and the University of Bristol. He researches the evolution of social behaviour in humans and other primates, mostly using Bayesian phylogenetic methods developed in evolutionary biology.

Abstract public lecture

Major transitions in evolution. When’s the next one? A Bayesian phylogenetic approach.
Two evolutionary biologists, John Maynard Smith and Eors Szathmary, have identified eight major evolutionary transitions in the way information is stored and transmitted from the beginning of life on Earth to the evolution of human society and language. From the common features of these transitions they argue that two human inventions rank as major transitions too. Writing, invented five thousand years ago, brought about large scale human societies. Computer technology is driving the current transition and the changes that it is bringing may be every bit as transformative as the previous ones. First, I test the applicability of the common features of the transitions to the evolution of primate societies using Bayesian phylogenetic methods. Then I propose approaches to test Major Transition theory for the evolution of language and writing. Finally I ask if it’s possible to use the transition features to start to make some predictions about the impact that computer technology may now be having on human society, culture and cognition. These transition features can make sense of the political upheavals of recent times, but more importantly, may act as a guide to the changes in society and culture we can expect over the coming decades.


Entrance is free. The number of seats is however limited, so please register by sending an email to m.j.van.duijn@liacs.leidenuniv.nl

More information on the annual Social Technologies Student Symposium

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