Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics
Lecture by Ofer Tchernikovski: Evolution of birdsong culture:
How dyadic vocal learning interactions add up to a stable polymorphic culture
Cultures vary in stability and diversity, ranging from chaotic or drifting cultures, through cumulative polymorphic cultures, to stable monolithic cultures with high conformity levels. What features can sustain polymorphism, preventing cultures from collapsing into either chaotic or highly conforming states? We investigate this question by studying the emergence of song cultures in birds. In songbirds, the manner in which communication signals are compressed and filtered during learning can affect culture polymorphism and stability. I will present an outline of a simple mechanism of a shifting balance between converging and diverging social forces to explain how song cultures are sustained. Finally, I will present preliminary evidence to how identifying social forces that shape cultural evolution might be useful for designing agile communication systems, which are stable and polymorphic enough to enable distributed governance.