Thursday, 21 August 2014

Cultural local competition

How is kin selection compatible with phenomena such as sibling rivalry and fratricide?

A big part of the answer given by scientists is local competition. By virtue of being born near to one another family members often come into competition with one another over resources - and then things can get nasty. Local competition can sometimes counteract and overcome the cooperative force associated with kin selection.

One way of avoiding local competition is to disperse offspring widely. However, this solution involves distribution costs and conflicts with trickle-feeding of offspring.

Cultural local competition is a phenomenon too. Shops face much the same dilemma that organisms do. If a shop creates a descendant shop nearby, that might make it easier to set it up the second shop. Close proximity makes it easier to share employees, stock, resources and training. However the stores might go on to compete with each other for customers. If there are multiple descendant shops, a failure to disperse them widely can also mean that the descendant shops compete with each other.

A form of kin competition is often observed acting between related products from the same company. On one hand, companies want to produce a diverse range of products - to expand and saturate the niche represented by their market. However, their products are similar and often compete with each other. This situation can be modeled by treating the products as sterile workers, and then applying the theories associated with kin selection and kin competition.

A similar effect can be found in academia. For example, where memes inside one professor might be reluctant to propagate themselves into another similar professor in the same department - or both professors will soon be expending their resources in fighting over the same grant money - a fight which can be simply avoided if meme reproduction is delayed until after the grant is awarded.

If there are multiple offspring organizations, they often compete with one another for resources from the parent organization(s). This is an example of the cultural version of sibling rivalry.

Offspring organizations and parent organization often share both memes and genes. Genes through things like nepotistic job offers and domesticated plants and animals - and memes through "organizational DNA" - a piece of "folk memetics" terminology. However, for most types of companies and organizations, shared memes will be a more potent force than shared genes. Cooperation between parents and offspring will be down to cultural kin selection and reciprocity - while the extent to which they compete for resources will erode that cooperation.

As is seen in the organic realm, cultural kin competition promotes dispersal. There are fewer conflicts over resources if offspring are widely separated in space.

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