Bruce Hannon’s Complexity Digest # 9

Posted by abingham on Jul 12, 2010 4:06:17 PM

Excerpted from Complexity Digest  2010.14 by Bruce Hannon

Language networks: Their structure, function, and evolution, Complexity

Abstract: Human language is the key evolutionary innovation that makes humans different from other species. And yet, the fabric of language is tangled and all levels of description (from semantics to syntax) involve multiple layers of complexity. Recent work indicates that the global traits displayed by such levels can be analyzed in terms of networks of connected words. Here, we review the state of the art on language webs and their potential relevance to cognitive science. The emergence of syntax through language acquisition is used as a case study to illustrate how the approach can shed light into relevant questions concerning language organization and its evolution.

Robustness versus evolvability: a paradigm revisited, HFSP J.

Excerpt: Evolvability is the property of a biological system to quickly adapt to new requirements. Robustness seems to be the opposite. Nonetheless many biological systems display both properties "a puzzling observation, which has caused many debates over the last decades. A recently published model by Draghi et al. [Nature 463, 353 "355 (2010)] elegantly circumvents complications of earlier in silico studies of molecular systems and provides an analytical solution, which is surprisingly independent from parameter choice. Depending on the mutation rate and the number of accessible phenotypes at any given genotype, evolvability and robustness can be reconciled. (...)

Human genome at ten: Science after the sequence, Nature

Excerpt: Ten years on, the hoped-for revolution against human disease has not arrived and Nature's poll of more than 1,000 life scientists shows that most don't anticipate that it will for decades to come (...). What the sequence has brought about, however, is a revolution in biology. It has transformed the professional lives of scientists, inspiring them to tackle new biological problems and throwing up some acute new challenges along the way.

The Seductive Allure of Behavioral Epigenetics, Science

Excerpt: Some researchers speculate that if these rodent findings extend to humans, epigenetics could turn out to be at the heart of some of the most vexing problems in society. These ills include the long-term health problems of people raised in lower socioeconomic environments, the vicious cycle in which abused children grow up to be abusive parents, and the struggles of drug addicts trying to kick the habit.
Tempting as such speculation may be, others worry that the young but fast-growing field of behavioral epigenetics is getting ahead of itself. They point out that so far there's very little evidence in humans that epigenetics connects early life experience to behavioral or health problems later in life.

Chagas disease, Nature

Excerpt: Chagas disease is arguably the archetypal neglected disease. Millions of people "the vast majority in Latin America" are infected, yet it is seldom discussed. It has struggled to achieve even a fraction of the notoriety of other neglected diseases, such as malaria. Its prevalence in immigrants to Spain, Portugal, the United States and other parts of the world has gone largely unnoticed. Even those who live in endemic areas are rarely aware of it. (...) Chagas disease lingers. In around one-third of those infected, the disease resurfaces in a chronic manifestation often decades after the acute stage, with devastating consequences.

  • Source: Chagas disease, Michelle Grayson, DOI: 10.1038/465S3a, Nature 465, S3, 2010/06/23

Tremendous Implications here...

Co-Operative Punishment Cements Social Cohesion, JASSS

Excerpt: Most current attempts to explain the evolution "through individual selection"of pro-social behavior (i.e. behavior that favors the group) that allows for cohesive societies among non related individuals, focus on altruistic punishment as its evolutionary driving force. The main theoretical problem facing this line of research is that in the exercise of altruistic punishment the benefits of punishment are enjoyed collectively while its costs are borne individually. We propose that social cohesion might be achieved by a form of punishment, widely practiced among humans and animals forming bands and engaging in mob beatings, which we call co-operative punishment.

Why Bother with What Others Tell You? An Experimental Data-Driven Agent-Based Model, JASSS

Abstract: This paper investigates the relevance of reputation to improve the explorative capabilities of agents in uncertain environments. We have presented a laboratory experiment where sixty-four subjects were asked to take iterated economic investment decisions. An agent-based model based on their behavioral patterns replicated the experiment exactly. Exploring this experimentally grounded model, we studied the effects of various reputational mechanisms on explorative capabilities at a systemic level. The results showed that reputation mechanisms increase the agents' capability for coping with uncertain environments more than individualistic atomistic exploration strategies, although the former does entail a certain amount of false information inside the system.

Closing in on evaders, Nature

Summary: A simple model highlights the pros and cons of chasing "and escaping" in groups. It shows that, for a given number of prey animals, an optimal number of predators exists that maximizes the success of the catch.

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