Evolving Cultural Things-That-Think

Nicholas Gessler

Although cultural evolution clearly outpaces genetic evolution in the natural world due to its higher rates of reproduction, recombination and selection, it does so built on biological foundations. In the natural world, cultural change takes place in minutes, days, years or decades, whereas genetic change takes at least a decade and a half. In the natural and cultural worlds the media of evolutionary transmission behave differently: genes reproduce slowly; ideas reproduce quickly. In the artificial world of the computer, whether modeled on a cultural or genetic metaphor, the medium in which evolution unfolds is the same for both, and the generations through which they both unfold is regulated by same the system clock. Consequently, there is no a priori reason to assume that cultural processes will be quicker than genetic ones in an artificial world, simply because they are quicker in the natural world. Cultural algorithms may be faster, but if they are it is for more complex reasons, such as their richer combinatorial possibilities (ideas may come from anywhere, zygotes only come from couples having sex), their greater range of generational longevity (from fleeting notions to commandments carved in stone), and the varieties of their modes and units of selection. It seems likely that a science of culture may enrich evolutionary computation by offering a superset of evolutionary mechanisms to explore. Evolutionary computation will surely enrich a science of culture by offering a superset of modeling practices. Such a coevolutionary synthesis may be fruitful to explore.

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