Cultural and biological evolution are similar because natural selection acts in both cases. Cultural productions compete against one another and many become extinct. As in the case of living beings, not always the best win. Chance has an influence. In this way, for instance, Windows-95 threw OS-2 out of the market, even though at that time the second operating system was better. Another example is the result of the war between the three competing models of video recording: Betamax, 2000 and VHS.
In the same way that living beings exhibit genetic variability (many varieties of the same gene co-existing in the same population), there is also a cultural variability, represented by the co-existence of old and new makes and models of the same product. At times of big change in the environment (we are just now experiencing one) a cultural product may escape extinction thanks to its variability, by combining versions and producing something new, better adapted to the new circumstances.
The parallel is quite impressive. What we call a species in the biological world, may be considered similar to a civilization. But there are also deep differences between both phenomena.
While studies about biological evolution get back in time to one century and a half ago, those about cultural evolution are more recent: not even half a century. One of its pioneers, Richard Dawkins (who invented the term meme for cultural elements equivalent to genes) made the mistake of considering biological and cultural evolution as identical processes, forgetting their differences. Cultural evolution is almost exclusively typical of man and exhibits new phenomena, emergent features that make it quite different from biological evolution: