Media Technology MSc

Public lecture on “Transitions in Evolution” by Dr. Kit Opie (UC London & U Bristol)

Dr. Kit OpieThe MSc in Media Technology program and the Leiden Institute for Advanced Computer Science have the pleasure to welcome Dr. Kit Opie in Leiden on April 19th. 

Kit Opie is affiliated to University College London and the University of Bristol. He researches the evolution of social behaviour in humans and other primates, mostly using Bayesian phylogenetic methods developed in evolutionary biology.

You are cordially invited to join his public lecture taking place Thursday April 19th at 4.15pm in room E.001 of the Van Steenis Building.

The lecture is part of the annual Social Technologies Student Symposium.

Title: Major transitions in evolution. When’s the next one? A Bayesian phylogenetic approach.

Two evolutionary biologists, John Maynard Smith and Eors Szathmary, have identified eight major evolutionary transitions in the way information is stored and transmitted from the beginning of life on Earth to the evolution of human society and language. From the common features of these transitions they argue that two human inventions rank as major transitions too. Writing, invented five thousand years ago, brought about large scale human societies. Computer technology is driving the current transition and the changes that it is bringing may be every bit as transformative as the previous ones. First, I test the applicability of the common features of the transitions to the evolution of primate societies using Bayesian phylogenetic methods. Then I propose approaches to test Major Transition theory for the evolution of language and writing. Finally I ask if it’s possible to use the transition features to start to make some predictions about the impact that computer technology may now be having on human society, culture and cognition. These transition features can make sense of the political upheavals of recent times, but more importantly, may act as a guide to the changes in society and culture we can expect over the coming decades.

Time: Thursday April 19th, 4.15pm-5.30pm including discussion
Location: Van Steenis building, Room E001
Registration: free entrance, limited number of seats; please register by sending an email to

19 April 2018