Brian Boyd on the Origin of Stories

Brian Boyd is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. His work has appeared in 20 languages and has won awards on four continents. Most importantly, Prof. Boyd is the author of On the Origin of Stories which examines the connections between evolution, cognition, and fiction.

During our 2-hour conversation with Brian Boyd, we cover a variety of interesting topics such as how Brian fell in love with story; the definition of story; Heider and Simmel’s triangle movie; the evolutionary origins of story in humans and other species; why Brian defines art as “cognitive pattern play”; the AI frame problem; religion as perhaps the most powerful and popular story; Jonah Sach’s “Myth Gap” and the importance of the image of the future; science, values, and story; the human story; the limits of universal explanations; social media as a misguided attempt to control our story; Karl Popper’s views on science, stories, and revolutions.

My favorite quote from Brian Boyd is this:

Story is a type of evolutionary adaptation. Understanding the world as a story – i.e. as a cause and effect, must undoubtedly be of adaptive value. Furthermore, stories help us explore the world not only as an actuality but also as a possibility. So it is a tool of learning, of thinking beyond the here and now.

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Who is Brian Boyd?

Brian Boyd is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Auckland who has been considered the foremost Nabokov scholar for over a third of a century. He has also published on other American, Brazilian, English, Greek, Irish, New Zealand, Polish, and Russian writers; on fiction, non-fiction, drama, verse, comics, film, translation, adaptation, and literary and art theory; on literature (and art) and evolution (On the Origin of Stories; Why Lyrics Last; On the Origin of Art); and on linguistics, philosophy, and science. Brian’s work has appeared in 20 languages and has won awards on four continents. Prof. Boyd is currently working on a biography of the philosopher of science Karl Popper.

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