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  Escaping optimization traps: the role of cultural adaptation and cultural exaptation in facilitating open-ended cumulative dynamics

Winters, J. (2019). Escaping optimization traps: the role of cultural adaptation and cultural exaptation in facilitating open-ended cumulative dynamics. Palgrave Communications, 5(1): 149 (2019). doi:10.1057/s41599-019-0361-3.

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Item Permalink: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0005-498B-D Version Permalink: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0005-7266-8
Genre: Paper

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 Creators:
Winters, James1, Author              
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1The Mint, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society, ou_2301700              

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Free keywords: Complex networks ; Science, technology and society
 Abstract: Explaining the origins of cumulative culture, and how it is maintained over long timescales, constitutes a challenge for theories of cultural evolution. Previous theoretical work has emphasized two fundamental causal processes: cultural adaptation (where technologies are refined towards a functional objective) and cultural exaptation (the repurposing of existing technologies towards a new functional goal). Yet, despite the prominence of cultural exaptation in theoretical explanations, this process is often absent from models and experiments of cumulative culture. Using an agent-based model, where agents attempt to solve problems in a high-dimensional problem space, the current paper investigates the relationship between cultural adaptation and cultural exaptation and produces three major findings. First, cultural dynamics often end up in optimization traps: here, the process of optimization causes the dynamics of change to cease, with populations entering a state of equilibrium. Second, escaping these optimization traps requires cultural dynamics to explore the problem space rapidly enough to create a moving target for optimization. This results in a positive feedback loop of open-ended growth in both the diversity and complexity of cultural solutions. Finally, the results helped delineate the roles played by social and asocial mechanisms: asocial mechanisms of innovation drive the emergence of cumulative culture and social mechanisms of within-group transmission help maintain these dynamics over long timescales.

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Language(s): eng - English
 Dates: 2019-11-26
 Publication Status: Published online
 Pages: 13
 Publishing info: -
 Table of Contents: -
 Rev. Method: Peer
 Identifiers: DOI: 10.1057/s41599-019-0361-3
Other: shh2467
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Title: Palgrave Communications
Source Genre: Journal
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Publ. Info: USA : Palgrave Macmillan
Pages: 149 Volume / Issue: 5 (1) Sequence Number: 149 (2019) Start / End Page: - Identifier: CoNE: https://pure.mpg.de/cone/journals/resource/2055-1045