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RSA Events

RSA

Society & Culture

The RSA hosts one of the world’s leading public events programmes, delivering over 100 lectures, talks, screenings and debates a year. These events provide a platform for our most exciting public thinkers, and encourage intelligent exploration of today’s most urgent social challenges. Our public programme welcomes speakers from across the world and across disciplines – all united by a belief in the power of ideas to inspire and motivate social change. All of the audio files are recordings of talks in our public events programme.

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How Human Values Evolve

March 18th, 2016

Episode 400 of 494 episodes

In the evolution of human culture from pre-history to the present, changes in ethical values have been driven by the most basic force of all: energy. In a bold new theory, historian Ian Morris argues that humans have found three main ways to get the energy they need – foraging, farming and fossil fuels – and that in each of these epochs, the dominant energy source sets limits on the kinds of societies that can succeed, and each society in turn rewards specific values. Small forager bands valued equality but were ready to settle problems violently. In larger farming societies those who valued hierarchy but avoided conflict did best. In huge fossil-fuel societies, the pendulum has swung back toward equality but further away from violence. But if our fossil-fuel world currently favours open, democratic societies, the ongoing revolution in energy capture may well soon signal a new values shift. If so, what might come next?

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