How culture can guide evolution: An inquiry into gene/meme enhancement and opposition

Title: How culture can guide evolution: An inquiry into gene/meme enhancement and opposition
Format: Journal Article
Publication Date: December 1999
Published In: Adaptive Behavior
Description: We study the relationship between genetic evolution, learning, and culture. We start with the simulation environment of Hinton and Nowlan in which individual learning was shown to guide genetic evolution towards a difficult adaptive goal. We then consider, in lieu of individual learning, culture in the form of social learning by imitation. Our results demonstrate that when genes and culture cooperate, or enhance one another, culture too is able to guide genetic evolution towards an adaptive goal. Further, we show that social learning is superior to individual learning insofar as it with genetic evolution converges more quickly to the goal. However, the social learning algorithm results in slower genetic assimilation of adaptive alleles than with individual learning. It is as if, we argue, the adaptive values are stored in the culture rather than in the genes. Finally, we consider what happens when culture and genes pursue diametrically opposed goals. Here we show that culture, in the form of social learning, is no real match when opposed to genetic evolution with individual learning. In fact, only the most herculean of social learning algorithms is able to keep a neutralizing toe-hold against the slow plodding force of genetic evolution. Finally, our results suggest that in both cases, opposition and enhancement, transmission forces such as the ratio of teacher to learner are central to the success of social learning. Copyright 1999 International Society for Adaptive Behaviour.
Ivan Allen College Contributors:
Citation: Adaptive Behavior. 7. Issue 3-4. 289 - 306. ISSN 1059-7123.
Related Departments:
  • Center for International Strategy, Technology, and Policy
  • School of International Affairs