Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Cultural Evolution Piece

This summary of a paper by Henrich, Boyd, and Richardson is exactly what I needed.

Image from http://photos.demandstudios.com
While I have yet jumped very far into the cultural evolution literature, its a piece that is needed to support how (institutionalized) education functions as an adaptive group.


My basic model posits tension in education between group-level orientation and individual-level (or more precisely, smaller group) orientation.  It also posits a slight preference for toleration.  Toleration preference orients the system to group-level inclusivity (i.e. toward a universalist moral position).  This fosters low frequency but sudden phase changes.  Reform resistance emerges due to the weak-to-moderate moral nature of the group.  Reform resistance is therefore governed by the various social factors associated with adaptive groups (i.e. norm variation detection & punishment, costly commitment displays, moral big brother, etc.).

I'm still playing with the notion of whether the end points of large group-orientation and small group-orientation are or are not strange attractors.


That's why this quote from Henrich, Boyd and Richardson is so interesting:
[C]ultural transmission does not involve the accurate replication of discrete, gene-like entities. Nonetheless, we also believe that models which assume discrete replicators that evolve under the influence of natural- selection-like forces can be useful. In fact, we think such models are useful because of the action of strong cognitive attractors during the social learning. 
The reason is simple: cognitive attractors will rapidly concentrate the cultural variation in a population. Instead of a continuum of cultural variants, most people will hold a representation near an attractor. If there is only one attractor, it will dominate. However, if, as seems likely in most cases, attactors are many, other selective forces will then act to increase the frequency of people holding a representation near one attractor over others. Under such conditions, even weak selective forces (“weak” relative to the strength of the attractors) can determine the final distribution of representations in the population.
Furthermore, the summary of their position by carcinisation.com is at least as interesting.
A major feature of cognitive attractors is that particulate cognitive information is less costly to hold and transmit than blended information - for example, it's easier to model the moon as either purely a rock in space or purely a conscious entity than some combination of the two.
Education's social equality camp is a cultural attractive well.  Education's academic/contextualized-needs camp is another cultural attractive well.  Intractability in premise or conclusion judgment prevent a stable solution.

Now whether the end-points are or are not strange attractors is a hard question.  Dynamics could be due to the attractors or due to the environment which the attractors lay (i.e. the judgment process).

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