Reconceptualizing Cultural Evolutionary Typologies

Typological approaches to understanding cultural evolution have been utilized, and strongly criticized, for more than a century (Sanderson 2007). Some of my own work has been a part of that long critique. But recent statistical analyses of cultural evolution suggest that there are patterns of punctuated...

The Evolution of Social Complexity in the Early Holocene: New Data and Theoretical Speculations

Over the last 20 years, we have enjoyed a wealth of new archaeological data that tests and revises our theories of the evolution of social complexity. Complexity here is defined as an increase in the number of non-kin that cooperate in the production and exchange of resources resulting in, among other...

Zoobiquity: How Jaguar Breast Cancer, Dolphin Diabetes, and Flamingo Heart Attacks will Transform Human Medicine

Dinosaurs suffered from brain cancer, arthritis, and gout. Koalas catch Chlamydia. Reindeer seek out narcotic escape in hallucinogenic mushrooms. Stallions self-harm in ways psychiatrists call “cutting” when they see it in human patients. Gorillas experience clinical depression. Non-human animals get...

Strategic Social Learning and Evolutionary Arms Races in the Game of Go

Human culture is now widely thought to undergo evolution, via mechanisms analogous to those in genetic evolution, but rooted in the nature of human cognition. The East Asian board game known as Go is here proposed as a model system in the study of cultural evolution. We draw from a large archive of Go...

Lumpy Development: Changing Urban Landscape in the United States

The hallmark of development in the United States has been sprawling and leapfrog urbanization. This study provides a comprehensive overview of the changing urban landscape patterns in the last couple of decades. While landscape metrics have traditionally been used to describe ecological fragmentation,...

A Revolution in Madagascar Paleoecology: Hunter-Gatherers of the Far North

For more than a century, most people have believed that the isolated mini-continent of Madagascar was only settled by humans about AD 400, and that the transformation of its flora and extinction of its larger mammals and birds cold be blamed on iron using farmers and herds from Indonesia. Isolated finds...

Opinion Dynamics and Epistemology

Opinion dynamics models are about the way individuals influence and are influenced by others and the consequences of those influences in the level of society. Similar questions exist in epistemological problems where understanding how scientists decide on their opinions about theories is a central question....

Mathematics in the 21st Century: Shall They Be Different?

I first review the heritage of the "short 20th century" in mathematics. A major success in the first half of this century was the appearance of the encyclopedic textbook by Bourbaki, putting in action the Hilbert's programme. I explain how it changed deeply our global perception of mathematics. But...

Learning a Natural-Image Dictionary and Its Statistics for Efficient Sensory Coding

Understanding how the brain processes and encodes sensory information is an outstanding scientific challenge that receives a great deal of attention around the world. In the domain of vision, the brain seems to effortlessly perform tasks that are extremely difficult for current computer algorithms and...

Structure, Geometry and Criticality in Empirical Brain Networks

Empirical brain networks are becoming an increasingly important topic of study. These networks range from micro-scale study of neuronal networks taken using cortical slices and electrodes to macro-scale networks constructed from MRI imaging and have applications ranging from basic science to clinical...

Lecture III - People and Tomorrow’s (Too Small) World

2012 Stanislaw Ulam Memorial Lectures: The Many Faces Of Complexity What having more people on Earth, with each of them having a longer life span and greater per-person impact on our environment, means for the world’s climate and ecosystems and the services they deliver (with emphasis on how little...

Lecture II - What Is Stability in Today’s Complex Financial Systems?

2012 Stanislaw Ulam Memorial Lectures: The Many Faces Of Complexity The economic crisis prompts May to explore how we might design financial services that satisfy their purpose of efficient distribution of capital in a free-market system but without the fragility and (hidden) costliness of our current...

Lecture I - Beauty and Truth in Mathematics and Science

2012 Stanislaw Ulam Memorial Lectures: The Many Faces Of Complexity May explores the extent to which beauty has guided, and still guides, humanity's quest to understand how the world works, with a brief look at the interactions among beliefs, values, beauty, truth, and our expectations for tomorrow's...

The Mathematical Regularities Underlying Both Biological and Social Systems

On the mathematical regularities underlying both biological and social systems

Evolution of Complexity and Intelligence on Earth

On the evolution of complexity and intelligence on earth

Algorithms, Equations, and Logic

In this talk, meant for a general audience, surprising relationships, are explored among the three concepts listed in the title, including unsolvable problems and Gödel undecidability. The discussion includes philosophical considerations.

Emergence of Complex Societies

How and why the state emerged in human history.

On the Interface between Movement and Sociality in Animal Behavior,and What Lies on Either Side

Scientists working on the study of animal groups are mainly divided between two schools: those who study social behaviour, and those who study spatial dynamics. Whilst these two dimensions are intrinsically linked, traditionally there has been little interaction between the two approaches. This is mostly...

Reading Ancient Minds: Metaphor, Culture, and Complexity

How much does culture influence human societies? The traditional view in many fields is that material forces – land, climate, warfare – trump less tangible human conceptualizations like currencies and laws. But Ortman argues that we don’t really know, yet. Cognitive science suggests that conceptual metaphors...

Percolation — - New Algorithms for an Old Problem

Where do the holes go when the cheese is gone? While we leave this question to the philosophers, we will address a related question: how many holes can a cheese contain before it falls apart? Or, more general, how much local damage can a system bear before it breaks completely? Percolation theory has...