Monday, 3 January 2011

Tim Tyler - Cultural Evolution

Here is another prototype cover for my proposed 2011 book.

The book is probably going to be called "Memetics". However, the main topic is going to be cultural evolution, rather than cultural genetics (memetics).

This cover is based on one of the diagrams from the book - illustrating cultural evolution using the classic example of knots.

Anthropologsts have long been aware that artefacts bear resemblances to each other that are suggestive of phylogenetic trees.

However, the idea works imperfectly - and it is not usually possible to construct phylogenetic trees of artefacts. This appears to have led to the approach being rather neglected - since it was evidently an inaccurate model of what was happening.

A beter model involves constructing phylogenetic trees of the associated memes. Knot tying involves a variety of themes - including:

  • Tying knots on top of each other;
  • Slip knots;
  • Doubling up strands;
  • Entwining strands;
  • Overhand knot pattern;
  • Reef knot pattern;
  • Figure-eight knot pattern;

...and so on. Some of these are simple enough to have multiple independent origins - but some more complex knot patterns have
single origins, and their sources can be traced.

A picture of origin and spread with diffusion and variation of knot memes - along with selection favouring useful knots - better accounts for the history of knot tying.

In the diagram, simple knots are in the middle, double-stranded knots are on the left-hand side - and nearby knots are often related in some way.

For the first prototype of the cover, see here. For the third prototype of the cover, see here.

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