Monday, June 30, 2003

from Ethnography of Artificial Culture: Specifications, Prospects, and Constraints by Nicholas Gessler


In a recent article I discussed some of the possible research benefits for anthropology of applying the computational paradigm of artificial life (AL) to the scientific study of cultural evolution. I referred to this program as artificial culture (AC). Culture, in this view comprises not only the cognitive processes of individuals (what they think), but includes their behaviors (what they do), and the products of their labors (what they make) as well. AC comprises a population of individual agents, each with its own sensors, cognizers, and actuators interacting with other agents, with products of their own manufacture, and with an external world containing objects and limited and resources situated on a grid. All inanimate objects are given a materiality constrained by a physics, and animate objects are further constrained by a metabolism. Further specifications, potentials and constraints are discussed here for a simplified implementation called T.I.E.R.S. (Trade, Information Exchange, and Risk Sharing). Along with robot sociology, this strategy may help to clarify the role of the individual in society, the dynamics of cooperation and competition, and the general epistemology of emergence.