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On Modelling in Memetics - Bruce Edmonds

4 `Black-Box' Models

The other end of the spectrum of is the `black-box' model. Here some data from a phenomenon is analysed and a memetic model is fitted to it. So one can say that it is as if there were a memetic process at work. A good example which illustrates some of the aspects of this approach is Best's
[3]. Here the phenomena of the repetition of clusters of word in news groups is analyses and evidence is presented to show that some of these clusters are acting as if they are competing with each other as quasi-species. It is unfortunate (for us readers) that Best did not then go into a detailed case study to see the actual mechanisms that caused this apparent anti-correlation, as a biologist might when faced with an apparent predator-prey cycle in some population statistics*1. Instead in the paper quoted he relies more on reference to middle-range concepts such as the scarcity of resources. Thus his paper can be summarised as: an analysis of data indicates that an evolutionary process is taking place.

Of course the weakness of this type of model, if it is taken in isolation, is that one might be mistaken. A process may appear to be evolutionary but later turn out to be otherwise. If one took the step of defining evolutionary process by its (high-level) phenomena, then one would no longer have a theory but just a description.

To illustrate this case I present a computational model, consisting of a collection of agents which interact and communicate with each other as they learn about what is best to do and say. In this simulation it appears that a memetic process is taking place (if one just considers the output in terms of who said what to whom), but it turns out (if one analyses the internal processes that produce this behaviour) that these results are actually caused by agents coming simultaneously to the same conclusions about what to say. This simulation is analysed elsewhere in detail for some of its other properties in [9, 10]. It requires some detail of the model set-up to be understood for the relevance of the example to be become clear, but I have tried to keep it as simple as possible by relegating much of the technicalities to an appendix (section 7). This model can be seen as an extension of the work in [1], which investigates a three player game.

4.1 - The Extended `El Farol Bar' Model

On Modelling in Memetics - Bruce Edmonds - 18 AUG 98
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