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Natural Selection, Technological Progress, and the Origin of Human Longevity

Author

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  • Lothar Grall

    () (Justus Liebig University Giessen)

Abstract

This paper suggests that feedback effects between technological progress and human longevity lie at the heart of their common emergence in human history. It connects two major research questions. First, the long life span after menopause is a unique but puzzling feature of humans among primates. Second, the shift in human behavior at least 50,000 years ago, which led to an unprecedented pace of technological progress, is still not well understood. The paper develops an evolutionary growth theory that builds on the trade-off between the quantity and the quality of offspring. It suggests that early technological advances gradually increased the importance of intergenerational transfers of knowledge. Eventually, the fertility advantage shifted towards individuals that were characterized by higher parental investment in offspring and a significant post-reproductive life span. Subsequently, the rise in human longevity reinforced the process of development and laid the foundations for sustained technological progress. As a key feature, the theory resolves the debate about a “revolution” in human behavior in an entirely new way. It shows that a gradual emergence of modern behavior is sufficient to trigger a demographic shift that appears as a “behavioral revolution” in the archeological record.

Suggested Citation

  • Lothar Grall, 2016. "Natural Selection, Technological Progress, and the Origin of Human Longevity," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201645, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
  • Handle: RePEc:mar:magkse:201645
    as

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    File URL: https://www.uni-marburg.de/fb02/makro/forschung/magkspapers/paper_2016/45-2016_grall.pdf
    File Function: First 201645
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Behavioral Revolution; Economic Growth; Human Longevity; Natural Selection; Somatic Investment; Technological Progress.;

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General

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