Tag Archives: Punctuated Equilibrium

Punctuated Equilibrium Wrought by Social Media

The theory of Punctuated Equilibrium, as postulated by Paleontologist and Evolutionary Biologist Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002), was developed to explain periods in the fossil record of rapid change.  The theory postulated that the pace of the evolution of life on the planet, as extrapolated from examining the fossil record, generally proceeded at a slow and steady rate for long periods – equilibrium—and that these periods of stasis were sometimes punctuated by periods of rapid change in which species evolved at a much faster rate.

This theory also applies to human culture.  There are occasions in human history where there is a development of a tool or a resource, or a crisis arrives, and what follows is a period of rapid change.  I think we are in such a period now- lots of new paths and branches in human culture and no one can predict which will be successful in the long run.  The development of the internet and the exponential growth in access to the internet across human society, combined with expanding opportunities for users to generate and interact with content,  are causing rapid change in our world.  I sometimes think about how my grandmother, who died in 1980, would react if she came back to earth today.  She would be floored by such things as wireless communications.   Of course, if my kids went back to 1980 they might also be floored by a few things- dial phones and vinyl records.

While there are still sections of society where Social Media has not been adopted (eg. amongst the Urban Amish), it is evident, that Social Media is here to stay.   It will continue to rapidly evolve and no one can declare with certainty what it will look like in five years.  But humans have always switched out for the most highly evolved tools, and are likely to continue to do so.

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