Evolution of cooperation : Agent-based models to understand the emergence of leadership and institutions in human societies - School of Computing Seminar Series

Start date and time

Wednesday 2 November 2016


Core44, room C44, Merchiston campus

Explaining the origin and the evolution of cooperation has been a major challenge in many scientific fields. One of the outstanding species are humans, who are capable of cooperating with a large number of unrelated individuals countless of times in their life. Although the causes of this hyper cooperation has been well studied at a small scale, the answers become scarce when it comes to explaining cooperation in large-scale societies. Indeed, at this scale, humans organize into numerous social structures often nested one into another. Ranging from small institutions to large states, they directly modify the rules of interaction between individuals, thereby changing the individual benefits of cooperation. In particular, two crucial features and their interactions seem to have largely shaped the evolution of human societies: leadership and institutions. But how can we explain their emergence? To give useful insights into this question, I will look into the origin of these phenomena 12500 years ago: at the Neolithic transition. This period, characterized by the advent of agriculture, has seen a quick transition from small and egalitarian human groups to large hierarchical, institutionalized, societies. During my PhD, I will investigate the possible causes of this change. First, and since human societies are very complex systems, I will use agent-based models to simulate the evolution of these features. In a second part, I will apply this work to develop the cooperative behaviour and adaptation capacity of multi-agent systems. During this seminar, I will present you the context of my scientific question, the major challenges they raise and how I will address them. To understand the evolution of cooperation in humans is a central issue to develop our knowledge, our technology and our economy.