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VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies

6. Cooperative Societies

Fewell, Jennifer. Social Insect Networks. Science. 1867/301, 2003. Universal principles of self-organizing complex systems are found to characterize colonoial insects such as ants and bees. Their superorganism-like communities have become a useful candidate to exhibit and model these common properties such as network dynamics.

Social insect colonies (and social groups generally) have key network attributes that appear consistently in complex biological systems, from molecules to ecosystems; these include nonrandom systems of connectivity and the self-organization of group-level phenotypes. (1867)

Fewell, Jennifer, et al. Division of Labor in the Context of Complexity. Gadau, Jurgen and Jennifer Fewell, eds. Organization of Insect Societies: From Genome to Sociocomplexity. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009. A good example of how nonlinear mathematical dynamics as a genetic-like source will produce similar yet diverse, symbiotic modules which then form and serve the rise and viability of higher-order, bounded phases. We offer extended quotes which illustrate their pervasive presence throughout natural kingdoms.

Sociobiology is undergoing a shift in its theoretical framework toward the paradigm that societies are complex and dynamical systems rather than amalgamated groups of individuals. (483) Over the past few decades, there has been a large increase in the pervasiveness of complexity theory across disciplines, allowing us to tap into a growing theoretical framework. (483-484)

If a social system has multiple clusters of individuals with localized interactions, and if they are each connected somehow to the group as a whole (and thus contribute to the behavior of the whole group), the social group becomes a complex system. Thus, complex systems are by definition distributed, because the behavior of the collective whole results from multiple local interactions rather than being directed externally or form a central source. These local interactions collectively produce group-level phenotypes, or emergent properties, at the larger scale that cannot be described or explained simply by measuring the behaviors of the individual group members alone. The process of local dynamics generating emergent effects is called self-organization, and the ubiquity of this effect has let to the suggestion that the presence of self-organization could be considered the defining characteristic of complex systems. (486-487)

The properties of emergence and resiliency outlines above lead to the consideration of social insects as complex adaptive systems (CAS). The concept of CAS was developed primarily to understand how some systems of interacting agents can develop amd maintain a group-level structure in the absence of a central organizing source. It originated in the observation that groups of interacting units, from economies to ecosystems, seen to share certain properties in common. (496)

Finn, Kelly, et al. Novel Insights into Animal Sociality from Multilayer Networks. arXiv:1712.01790. Finn, UC Davis animal behavior, Matthew Silk, University of Exeter environmental sustainability, along with Mason Porter, mathematics and Noa Pinter-Wollman, evolutionary biology UCLA apply these latest appreciations of dynamic network structures (search Porter) to creaturely groupings across their many instances and scales.

Network analysis has driven key developments in animal behavior research by providing quantitative methods to study the social structure of animal groups and populations. A recent advancement in network science, multilayer network analysis, the study of network structures of multiple interconnected `layers', offers a novel way to represent and analyze the structure of animal behavior, and help strengthen links to broader ecological and evolutionary contexts. We outline the potential uses of these new methods at individual-, group-, population-, and evolutionary-levels, and we highlight their potential to advance behavioral ecology research. This novel quantitative approach makes it possible to address classic research questions from a new perspective and opens a diversity of new questions that previously have been out of reach. (Abstract)

Flack, Jessica. Multiple Time-Scales and the Developmental Dynamics of Social Systems. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 367/1802, 2012. A Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, Center for Complexity and Collective Computation (C4), and Santa Fe Institute systems behaviorist contributes to a special issue on The Social Network and Communicative Complexity, with Robin Dunbar as a main organizer. We note three quotes in regard – the article Abstract, another from the issue Introduction, and a statement for the C4 Center.

To build a theory of social complexity, we need to understand how aggregate social properties arise from individual interaction rules. Here, I review a body of work on the developmental dynamics of pigtailed macaque social organization and conflict management that provides insight into the mechanistic causes of multi-scale social systems. In this model system coarse-grained, statistical representations of collective dynamics are more predictive of the future state of the system than the constantly in-flux behavioural patterns at the individual level. (Abstract, 1802)

The complex social worlds of many animal species may be linked to complex communicative systems in those species. We now have evidence in diverse taxa and in different communicative modalities suggesting that complexity in social groups can drive complexity in signalling systems. The aim of this theme issue is to develop the theory behind this link between social complexity and communicative complexity, and to provide an overview of the lines of research testing this link. (Introduction, 1782)

The mission of C4 is to discover the information processing, regulatory, and computational principles underlying the emergence of societies of cells and organisms in the history of life on earth. Research in C4 sits at the interface of collective behavior and evolution, statistical mechanics, information theory, and model selection. Research projects include the origins of biological and social complexity, the roles of inference, uncertainty reduction and robustness in evolutionary processes, complexity measures for biological systems, the role of collective social computation in the developmental dynamics of social systems, the causes of multi scale structure in brains and societies, inductive game theory and conflict dynamics and control, and the cultural evolution of artifacts, including novels and constitutions. (C4 website, David Krakauer director)

Fletcher, Jeffery and Martin Zwick. Strong Altruism can Evolve in Randomly Formed Groups. Journal of Theoretical Biology. 228/3, 2004. A liability to helping and sharing behaviors was thought to be a high cost to the altruistic organism. This simulation and analysis finds a positive bias for these cooperative traits, not requiring special conditions, if such groups persist for more than one generation.

The fact that strong altruism can increase when groups are periodically and randomly formed suggests that altruism may evolve more readily and in simpler organisms than is generally appreciated. (303)

Foster, Kevin. The Sociobiology of Molecular Systems. Nature Reviews Genetics. Online, March, 2011. The Oxford University zoologist seeks to advance insights into human social behavior as set within their certain evolutionary ground, long a contentious subject. Although the 1970s “sociobiology” remains a loaded term, we ought not ignore that biological and communal life phases are deeply rooted and related. An appropriate synthesis might be lately gained through the fluid network topologies being found at every organic scale. Four aspects are enlisted: multiple nested levels of spatial life and temporal evolution, kinds and density of nodes and connections, system diversities, and how networks change. By the 2010s, a complementary balance of entity and empathy from protein webs and cell symbiosis to primate troops and country towns can be observed and documented.

It is often assumed that molecular systems are designed to maximize the competitive ability of the organism that carries them. In reality, natural selection acts on both cooperative and competitive phenotypes, across multiple scales of biological organization. Here I ask how the potential for social effects in evolution has influenced molecular systems. I discuss a range of phenotypes, from the selfish genetic elements that disrupt genomes, through metabolism, multicellularity and cancer, to behaviour and the organization of animal societies. I argue that the balance between cooperative and competitive evolution has shaped both form and function at the molecular scale. (193)

Frank, Steven. Repression of Competition and the Evolution of Cooperation. Evolution. 57/4, 2003. In addition to kin selection, distinct entities such as genomes, eukaryotic cells, and human societies tend to cohere and prosper by a reciprocal alignment of individual interests with that of the assembly. By this feature, the cell or tribe then gains survival benefits vs. other groups. Such internal “fairness” and “leveling of position” equally serves the whole unit. A noteworthy review of the history and literature of a vital propensity for communal accord.

Fuentes, Agustin, et al. Niche Construction through Cooperation: A Nonlinear Dynamics Contribution to Modeling Facets of the Evolutionary History in the Genus Homo. Current Anthropology. 51/3, 2010. A Notre Dame anthropologist, together with Matthew Wyczalkowski, Washington University, and Katherine MacKinnon, Saint Louis University, seek expansions to Darwinism to help explain the ubiquitous fact of reciprocal aid. Surely there must be something else and much more, an inherent propensity to build and share, must be going on.

The transition from early members of the genus Homo to Homo erectus/ergaster is marked by subtle morphological shifts but resulted in substantial changes in evolutionary trajectory. Predation pressures on the hominins may have been significant in influencing this transition. These contexts might have stimulated a shift in behavior and modes of engagement with the environment that initiated a complex suite of changes facilitating the emergence of current features of humanity. In this report we outline a potential model for these shifts based on nonlinear dynamical interactions involving niche construction and increased reliance on complex cooperation as an antipredator strategy. Modeling proposed selective predation pressures on early humans, leading to the idea that increasingly complex sociality, patterns of cooperation, and niche construction laid the foundation for the successful emergence and spread of the genus Homo and potentially a concomitant decline for the genus Paranthropus. (435)

Gadau, Jurgen and Jennifer Fewell, eds. Organization of Insect Societies: From Genome to Sociocomplexity. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009. After some years of field and laboratory entomology research, a summary volume has now be assembled, whose four sections cover: Transitions in Social Evolution; Communication; Neurogenetic Basis of Social Behavior; and Theoretical Perspectives on Social Organization. And of course Edward O. Wilson writes the Foreword. As expressed in a paper by Nigel Franks, et al, “The Dawn of a Golden Age in Mathematical Insect Sociobiology,” a new optimism arises because complex, self-organizing systems match so well the dynamic interplays of bee and hive, ant and army, and societal groupings everywhere. See also chapters by Jennifer Fewell, et al, and Andrew Hamiliton, et al.

Garcia, Thomas and Silvia De Monte. Group Formation and the Evolution of Sociality. Evolution. Online September, 2012. École Normale Supérieure, Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris, and Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique researchers in “Eco-Evolutionary Mathematics” find a constant, recurrent propensity for creatures from microbes to people to cohesively assemble for advantages of both individual and congregate survival and welfare.

In spite of its intrinsic evolutionary instability, altruistic behavior in social groups is widespread in nature, spanning from organisms endowed with complex cognitive abilities to microbial populations. In this study, we show that if social individuals have an enhanced tendency to form groups and fitness increases with group cohesion, sociality can evolve and be maintained in the absence of actively assortative mechanisms such as kin recognition or nepotism toward other carriers of the social gene. When explicitly taken into account in a game-theoretical framework, the process of group formation qualitatively changes the evolutionary dynamics with respect to games played in groups of constant size and equal grouping tendencies. The evolutionary consequences of the rules underpinning the group size distribution are discussed for a simple model of microbial aggregation by differential attachment, indicating a way to the evolution of sociality bereft of peer recognition. (Abstract)

The evolution of collective behavior. Communities of organisms that express social behavior are found at every level of biological complexity, ranging from quorum-sensing in bacteria to human altruism. The feature of collective properties is that they do not only depend on one individual’s choices, but also on the choices of all the components of a social group. The establishment, on evolutionary time scales, and the dynamics, on ecological time scales, of communities of socially interacting individuals can be addressed theoretically as well as by experiments on microbial communities. I try to develop game-theoretical models with particular attention to the feasibility of their experimental validation. (Silvia De Monte’s web page)

Gardner, Andy and Alan Grafen. Capturing the Superorganism: A Formal Theory of Group Adaptation. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 22/4, 2009. Since the 1960s the conviction that animal groups from insects to birds, fish, mammals, and to human beings do take on the semblance of a true organism has resided at the edges of what is permitted. Recently, much through the work of David Sloan Wilson and Edward O. Wilson, aided by the “major transitions” scale of John Maynard Smith and Eors Szathmary, it now crossing into acceptance. In this essay University of Edinburgh biologists pose an advance by which such groupings, as agents within Agents, can be seen to repeat characteristic “individual-level adaption” as per the late geneticist William Hamilton. From a 2009 retrospect, if these decades of research are viewed as a collaborative learning project, a new evolutionary synthesis is then evinced not as a gradual meander but as an emergent, repetitive nest from molecule to metropolis. But a further step is to wonder does this archetypal anatomy spring from and reflect a universal self-creation?

Gardner, Michael, et al. Group Living in Squamate Reptiles: A Review of Evidence for Stable Aggregations. Biological Reviews. 91/6, 2016. Flanders University of South Australia behavioral ecologists find this class of scaled lizards and snakes, while primitive, to exhibit strong proclivities for social assemblies. We further note because such a constantly recurrent sociality would seem to imply an independent organizational source at work.

How sociality evolves and is maintained remains a key question in evolutionary biology. Most studies to date have focused on insects, birds, and mammals but data from a wider range of taxonomic groups are essential to identify general patterns and processes. The extent of social behaviour among squamate reptiles is under-appreciated, yet they are a promising group for further studies. Living in aggregations is posited as an important step in the evolution of more complex sociality. We review data on aggregations among squamates and find evidence for some form of aggregations in 94 species across 22 families. Of these, 18 species across 7 families exhibited ‘stable’ aggregations that entail overlapping home ranges and stable membership in long-term (years) or seasonal aggregations. Phylogenetic analysis suggests that stable aggregations have evolved multiple times in squamates. We: (i) identify significant gaps in our understanding; (ii) outline key traits which should be the focus of future research; and (iii) outline the potential for utilising reproductive skew theory to provide insights into squamate sociality. (Abstract)

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