Dr. Lynne Kelly’s research on history, indigenous people, and memory, and a dovetail with Big History

David Christian, Fred Spier, Bill Gates, Big History Institute, and other Big History researchers and thinkers, if you’re not already aware of her, allow me to introduce you to researcher Dr. Lynne Kelly. Her work dramatically expands our understanding of pre-literate societies’ learning, memory, and particularly collective learning. Further, it makes for a strong and fascinating story that could not only be integrated into Big History; it provides links between modern and pre-modern humans and ties deeply into ideas of origin stories, mythology, and early religion; and it provides actual methods for improving student’s memories and particularly that for history.

I think her work has some profound impact on the arc of Big History, particularly with respect to Threshold 6, well into Threshold 7, and continuing into the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution. In true big history fashion, her thesis also touches heavily on a broad array of topics including anthropology, archaeology, psychology, neuroscience, history, and education.

A broad, reasonable introduction to her work can be had in CalTech physicist Sean Carroll’s  recent podcast interview.

Another short introduction is her TEDx Melbourne talk:

A solid popular science encapsulation of her work can be found in her book The Memory Code: The Secrets of Stonehenge, Easter Island and Other Ancient Monuments (Pegasus Books, 2017).

A more thorough academic treatment of her work can naturally be found in:

With some work, I think her research could become a better foundational basis for a stronger bridge from threshold 6 into threshold 7 with dramatic impact on how we view origin stories, mythology, religion. It also has some spectacular implications for improving pedagogy and memory within our educational systems and how we view and use collective memory and even innovation in the modern world.

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Chris Aldrich

I'm a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, theoretical mathematics, and big history. I'm also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.

10 thoughts on “Dr. Lynne Kelly’s research on history, indigenous people, and memory, and a dovetail with Big History”

  1. César, it dawns on me that you’ll appreciate her ideas as they relate to collective memory/collective learning and information theory too. The methods she describes tremendously up the limit of the personbyte, though there is still an upper limit to what one person can both know and accomplish. It does have some serious consequences for what we may have though early societies capable of.

    Syndicated copies:

  2. I am a history student at Macquarie and lucky enough to call Lynne Kelly a good friend. The Big History was one of the first units I did when I was reading her original book on oral history from her PhD. When I had to write an essay on collective learning I connected her writing to Prof. Christian’s theory and referenced her, two years ago.

    1. Tina, I’m glad I’m not the only one to see it the relationship. Did you happen to keep the essay? It could make an interesting foundation for creating some teaching materials and providing pedagogy for this area.

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