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Sanford Kwinter: This is your brain on design (April 5, 2011)02:00:50

After being introduced by Elena Manferdini, Sanford Kwinter proposes viewing the brain as an ecological problem, to be approached in terms of social science, evolution, and especially the concepts of type, gradient, and cycle. He argues that population thinking suggests that uniqueness such as zebra patterns and fingerprints are illustrations of ubiquitous environmental processes. Environments are robust but unstable, and once they are disturbed, they cannot be restored to a prior state.

Kwinter proposes the science of drawing as an influence on modern notions of ecology. He uses the example of watering holes in Africa to argue that animals have the ability to communicate non-verbally to the entire population of a specific environment. The balance and distribution of stress and tensions can be read as form and order.

Kwinter describes how organisms evolve the ability to track habits in order to “read” their environment. At the same time, environments reorganize and hide the intentions of the tracker. He argues that species evolve according to their immediate environment, developing abilities and sensitivities that, elsewhere, would hinder their ability to survive.

He shifts his focus from the evolution of organisms to the evolution of specific organs, such as the thumb and the tooth. He describes how dietary and predatory challenges influenced their form and strength, hence significantly influencing human evolution.

Kwinter begins describing how the human brain was able to evolve out of environmental influences. He describes human evolution as a series of environmental changes to which the brain was able to adapt. He concludes with images of some aboriginal peoples of the Omo Valley in Southern Ethiopia, commenting how seamlessly their social practices extend into the surrounding environment.

Kwinter, joined later by Jeffrey Kipnis, responds to questions about the applicability of evolutionary theory to architecture, and also genes, teeth, air conditioning, and postmodernism.

From the Media ArchiveMedia archive link