The Science of Change: How do we measure cultural transmission at large scales?
Mark E. Madsen
University of Washington, Anthropology
March 21, 2016
5:15 pm - 6:15 pm
AA-G008, Binghamton University
About the seminar
Evolutionary modeling of cultural transmission and cultural change has grown over
the past 25 years from a handful of biologist and social scientists, to a major interdisciplinary
program that involves research in every social science, cognitive and computer science,
biologists, and even physicists. Formal models of cultural transmission and evolution
have proliferated, but major challenges exist in testing transmission models against
real world data. Difficulties exist even when we have individual-level observations.
The challenge is even more profound when the only data we have on a cultural or economic
phenomenon come in aggregate form: where our observations refer to groups of people,
blocks of time, or both. After examining how aggregated data foil our efforts at
inferring the parameters of evolutionary models or accurately choosing between models,
I advocate for matching aggregate data with higher level models and research questions.
I demonstrate how aggregate data from cultural transmission simulations can accurately
discriminate between macroevolutionary transmission models, giving us the ability
to understand large scale transmission phenomena even while micro scale causation
About the speaker
Mark E. Madsen is a Ph.D candidate at the University of Washington, working at the
intersection between evolutionary theory, anthropology, and machine learning. Mark
is also a serial entrepreneur, co-founding AllRecipes.com, Network Clarity, and helping start RealNetworks and Internap Network Services. He
also worked in technology licensing at Microsoft, and was managing partner at a technology
angel investment firm.