Cultural Evolution and the Impending Singularity: The Movie

This post was chosen as an Editor's Selection for ResearchBlogging.org

Here’s a video of a talk I gave at the Santa Fe Institute‘s Complex Systems Summer School (written with roboticist Andrew Tinka-check out him talking about his fleet of floating robots).  The talk was a response to the “Evolution Challenge”:

  1. Has Biological Evolution come to an end?
  2. Is belief an emergent property?
  3. Will advanced computers use H. Sapiens as batteries?

I also blogged about a part of this talk here (why a mad scientist’s attempt at creating A.I. to make new scientific discoveries was doomed).

The talk was given a prise for best talk by the judging panel which included David Krakauer, Tom Carter and best-selling author Cormac McCarthy.  At several points in the talk, I completely forget what I was supposed to say because the people filming the event asked me to set my screen up in a way so I couldn’t see my notes.


Sperl, M., Chang, A., Weber, N., & Hübler, A. (1999). Hebbian learning in the agglomeration of conducting particles Physical Review E, 59 (3), 3165-3168 DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.59.3165

Chater N, & Christiansen MH (2010). Language acquisition meets language evolution. Cognitive science, 34 (7), 1131-57 PMID: 21564247

Ay N, Flack J, & Krakauer DC (2007). Robustness and complexity co-constructed in multimodal signalling networks. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences, 362 (1479), 441-7 PMID: 17255020

Ackley, D.H., and Cannon, D.C.. “Pursue Robust Indefinite Scalability”. In Proceedings of the Thirteenth Workshop on Hot Topics in Operating Systems (HOTOS-XIII) (2011, May). Abstract, PDF.

Guttal V, & Couzin ID (2010). Social interactions, information use, and the evolution of collective migration. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107 (37), 16172-7 PMID: 20713700

  • supersnail

    hey, nice video – i enjoyed the last bit on the cognition- culture feedback loop explosion. could you point me to a few sources about that? like why cultures becomes more complex and how this favors more cognitive computational machinery.

  • http://theadventuresofauck.blogspot.com/ Sean

    I’m being lead to this by the Ay, Flack & Krakauer paper cited above. This shows that robustness is a lower bound on complexity, and so selection for a robust communication system could also become more complex. The Chater & Christiansen paper supplies the distinction between natural and cultural problems (see my other post about this paper here). I’m sure there is a theory in biology about increasing complexity, and Tomasello’s Cultural Ratchet makes a similar point.

    There are some problems with the theory – for instance, it’s not as if humans have made no progress in science, and my argument is that cultural problems become proportionately more salient and relevant to communicating agents. However, there may still be more natural problems than cultural problems in the universe.

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