- Paul Ehrlich studied the evolution of canoe design in Polynesia, as a model system for how cultural evolution works in general. He found, not surprisingly, that artistic variation occurred rapidly, whereas variation in the the canoes' functional design was slower (due to the need to be sea-worthy.) (blog post,journal article)
- Simon Kirby et. al. simulated the evolution of a new language. Human subjects were shown a collection of nonsense words, and a picture associated to each word. They were then asked to recall these word-picture associations. Whether or not these recollections were correct, they were used as the basis for a new set of words-picture associations, which were then shown to a new set of subjects. As the associations changed each round based on what people could remember, a structred language began to develop.
In other words, human memory was the environment in which the language was evolving. The more structure in the language, the easier it was to remember, and therefore the more it got passed on. Very cool! (blog post, journal article)
- Arne Traulsen et. al. (the et. al. includes Nowak) found that if you assume a much higher rate of "mutation" in ideas than in genes (a reasonable assumption), you get qualitatively different results. For example, cooperation can become viable in situations where it wouldn't otherwise be. (blog post)
A new kind of problem
16 hours ago in RRResearch