Innovation and cumulative culture through tweaks and leaps in online programming contests
MetadataShow full item record
The ability to build progressively on the achievements of earlier generations is central to human uniqueness, but experimental investigations of this cumulative cultural evolution lack real-world complexity. Here, we studied the dynamics of cumulative culture using a large-scale data set from online collaborative programming competitions run over 14 years. We show that, within each contest population, performance increases over time through frequent ‘tweaks’ of the current best entry and rare innovative ‘leaps’ (successful tweak:leap ratio = 16:1), the latter associated with substantially greater variance in performance. Cumulative cultural evolution reduces technological diversity over time, as populations focus on refining high-performance solutions. While individual entries borrow from few sources, iterative copying allows populations to integrate ideas from many sources, demonstrating a new form of collective intelligence. Our results imply that maximising technological progress requires accepting high levels of failure.
Miu , E , Gulley , N , Laland , K N & Rendell , L 2018 , ' Innovation and cumulative culture through tweaks and leaps in online programming contests ' Nature Communications , vol. 9 , 2321 . DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-04494-0
© The Author(s) 2018. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
DescriptionE.M. was supported by the John Templeton Foundation Grant #40128 ‘Exploring the Evolutionary Foundations of Cultural Complexity, Creativity, and Trust’ and the University of St Andrews School of Biology. L.R. was supported by the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTs) pooling initiative funded by the Scottish Funding Council (grant reference HR09011).
Items in the St Andrews Research Repository are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.