Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Innovation and cumulative culture through tweaks and leaps in online programming contests

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The ability to build progressively on the achievements of earlier generations is central to human uniqueness, but experimental investigations of this cumulative cultural evolution lack real-world complexity. Here, we studied the dynamics of cumulative culture using a large-scale data set from online collaborative programming competitions run over 14 years. We show that, within each contest population, performance increases over time through frequent ‘tweaks’ of the current best entry and rare innovative ‘leaps’ (successful tweak:leap ratio = 16:1), the latter associated with substantially greater variance in performance. Cumulative cultural evolution reduces technological diversity over time, as populations focus on refining high-performance solutions. While individual entries borrow from few sources, iterative copying allows populations to integrate ideas from many sources, demonstrating a new form of collective intelligence. Our results imply that maximising technological progress requires accepting high levels of failure.
Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Article number2321
Number of pages8
JournalNature Communications
Volume9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2018

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Flexible learning, rather than inveterate innovation or copying, drives cumulative knowledge gain

    Miu, E., Gulley, N., Laland, K. N. & Rendell, L., 5 Jun 2020, In : Science Advances. 6, 23, 10 p., eaaz0286.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. The reach of gene-culture coevolution in animals

    Whitehead, H., Laland, K. N., Rendell, L., Thorogood, R. & Whiten, A., 3 Jun 2019, In : Nature Communications. 10, 10 p., 2405.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

  3. Social learning strategies: bridge-building between fields

    Kendal, R., Boogert, N., Rendell, L., Laland, K. N., Webster, M. & Jones, P., Jul 2018, In : Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 22, 7, p. 651-665 15 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

  4. Social Evolution and the collective brain

    Laland, K. N. & Rendell, L., Sep 2017, In : Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 32, 9, p. 625-626 2 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalBook/Film/Article review

  5. Experimental evidence for the co-evolution of hominin tool-making teaching and language

    Morgan, T. J. H., Uomini, N. T., Rendell, L. E., Chouinard-Thuly, L., Street, S. E., Lewis, H. M., Cross, C. P., Evans, C., Kearney, R., de la Torre, I., Whiten, A. & Laland, K. N., 13 Jan 2015, In : Nature Communications. 6, 8 p., 6029.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Nature Communications (Journal)

    Ife Okafor-Yarwood (Reviewer)

    23 Mar 2020

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPeer review of manuscripts

  2. Nature Communications (Journal)

    Andy Gardner (Reviewer)

    Feb 2018

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPeer review of manuscripts

Related by journal

  1. "Gene accordions" cause genotypic and phenotypic heterogeneity in clonal populations of Staphylococcus aureus

    Belikova, D., Jochim, A., Power, J., Holden, M. T. G. & Heilbronner, S., 14 Jul 2020, In : Nature Communications. 11, 15 p., 3526.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. 245 MHz bandwidth organic light-emitting diodes used in a gigabit optical wireless data link

    Yoshida, K., Manousiadis, P., Bian, R., Chen, Z., Murawski, C., Gather, M. C., Haas, H., Turnbull, G. A. & Samuel, I. D. W., 3 Mar 2020, In : Nature Communications. 11, 7 p., 1171.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. A fluoride-responsive genetic circuit enables in vivo biofluorination in engineered Pseudomonas putida

    Calero, P., Volke, D. C., Lowe, P., Gotfredsen, C. H., O'Hagan, D. & Nikel, P. I., 7 Oct 2020, In : Nature Communications. 11, 11 p., 5045.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Adsorption of rare earth elements in regolith-hosted clay deposits

    Borst, A. M., Smith, M. P., Finch, A. A., Estrade, G., Villanova-de-Benavent, C., Nason, P., Marquis, E., Horsburgh, N. J., Goodenough, K. M., Xu, C., Kynický, J. & Geraki, K., 1 Sep 2020, In : Nature Communications. 11, 15 p., 4386.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. Anomalous fractionation of mercury isotopes in the Late Archean atmosphere

    Zerkle, A. L., Yin, R., Chen, C., Li, X., Izon, G. & Grasby, S., 6 Apr 2020, In : Nature Communications. 11, 9 p., 1709.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 253355145

Top