You are always internalizing the culture around you

Wednesday, September 7th, 2022

Chimpanzees, who are born into the habitat their genes expect, get by largely on instinct:

We cannot. We have to rely on what anthropologists call cultural learning.


If you measure two-and-a-half-year-old children against [same-aged] chimpanzees and orangutans, they are about even in their capacity to handle tools and solve problems on their own. Only when it comes to observing others and repeating their actions is there a noticeable difference.

Two-and-a-half-year-olds can extract knowledge from people just by watching them move about a room. They start to desire what those around them desire. They pick up tacit knowledge. They change their dialect to match their peer groups. And after a handful of years of hanging about with people more skilled than themselves, our babies — these tiny, soft-skulled creatures — can out-compete chimpanzees in all but close combat.

This ability is not something you can turn on and off. You are always internalizing the culture around you. Even when you wish you didn’t. So you better surround yourself with something you want inside — curate a culture.


  1. Harry Jones says:

    The trick is to find the culture you want to become.

    Way easier on the Internet than in meatspace.

  2. Alex S. says:

    That is why I think a part of what is called intelligence can be learned.

  3. Pseudo-Chrysostom says:

    Harry Jones,

    Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret.

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