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The origin of culture: Selective conditions for horizontal information transfer

Gonzalez, Miguel, Watson, Richard A., Noble, Jason and Bullock, Seth, (2014) The origin of culture: Selective conditions for horizontal information transfer Lipson, Hod, Sayama, Hiroki, Rieffel, John, Risi, Sebastian and Doursat, Rene (eds.) In ALIFE 14: The Fourteenth International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems. MIT Press. 8 pp.

Record type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


Culture is a central component in the study of numerous disciplines in social science and biology. Nevertheless, a consensus on what it is and how we can represent it in a meaningful and useful way has been hard to reach, especially due to the multifaceted aspects of its nature. In this work we dissect culture into its most basic components and propose horizontal information transfer as the most crucial aspect of it. We discuss the two fundamental processes that are required for culture to emerge in an evolutionary context, namely: increased mutation rates and survival selection. To show how each of these components affect the emergence of culture, a genetic algorithm was explored for a range of conditions. Here, we formalize when and how a population is said to move from biological to cultural evolution and why such a transition radically changes its evolutionary dynamics. Our results suggest that horizontal transfer of information in cultural systems requires the evolution of survival enhancing traits rather reproduction enhancing ones. We consider this requirement to be key for the evolution of rich cultural systems, like the one present in humans.

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Published date: 2014
Venue - Dates: Fourteenth International Conference on Artificial Life, 2014-01-01
Organisations: Agents, Interactions & Complexity


Local EPrints ID: 364830
PURE UUID: efbe5f6a-f046-482d-801c-2e2904875d6f

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Date deposited: 12 May 2014 09:11
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 02:27

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Author: Miguel Gonzalez
Author: Jason Noble
Author: Seth Bullock
Editor: Hod Lipson
Editor: Hiroki Sayama
Editor: John Rieffel
Editor: Sebastian Risi
Editor: Rene Doursat

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