WIT Press



Free (open access)

Paper DOI



Volume 7 (2012), Issue 1



Page Range

48 - 68




Human culture is the accumulation and evolution of results produced by countless design exercises. However, the process from which such design emerges lacks a solid scientific theory. Long-term sustainability issues force us to discover new boundaries and innovative design possibilities. This analysis makes reference to life’s biological laws and the biophysical boundaries to which all living beings are constrained in order to propose a theoretical model that links restriction and capacity to four evolutionary strategies (Status Quo, Survival, Transformation, and Growth). The latter is related to cultural evolution, which identifies human culture as a phenomenon that stays within life’s general evolution. The proposed model links evolutionary strategies to four distinct design goals within reach of human beings and to the fundamental philosophical building blocks that are consistent with each option of the model. After the model is presented, a statistical analysis is used for validation of the model. Despite great diversity of cultural and historical backgrounds in present societies, data form economic, energy and technological features of more than 100 countries show striking regularities related to the way that physical and social resources are applied to the process of economic and human development, and show consistency with the proposed design goals of the model. Among the most striking features discovered by this analysis it is worth noticing that, apparently, there is a minimal threshold of energy expenditure and research and development (R&D) investment required to achieve a high level of social development. Furthermore, in order to achieve a positive and strong cooperative effect between energy and R&D, worldwide evolution of such indexes seems to indicate that economic and social evolution is constrained to similar scaling laws, than those discovered for biological species. Although boundaries for cultural design are identified throughout this work, the evidence also suggests new design possibilities for moving forward into a transformational future supported by social technologies of metabolic (constructal) design.


constructal, cultural evolution, design, economics, philosophy