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…although human brains are remarkably complex, the movement of crowds can be modeled with surprisingly simple rules.

Humans are clever, but this hardly makes us immune to fundamental principles of nature. Almost every line drawn in the sand between humans and non-humans-tool use, language, deliberate planning for the future, sense of self-has dissolved with further examination of the animal world, or the realization that basic mechanisms of interaction trump cognition. We are different, but not as different as we’d like to believe.

from this blog post.


Geller is correct that human cognition adds a complicating dimension in applying signaling theory to human behavior, but cognitive capacity does not nullify the predictions of signaling models. Evolutionary models (e.g., ESS models, optimal foraging theory, life history theory) offer predictions about phenotypic strategies that often ignore the underlying mechanisms, including cognition, physiology, and even genetics, that produce these strategies, as long as these proximate mechanisms do not significantly constrain optimal outcomes. These models allow us to determine the selective pressures that favor successful strategies. While human cognition may enable humans to devise uniquely sophisticated signaling strategies, there is no reason to believe that human signals are somehow outside the reach of selection pressures.

This lets me recall about the approximation of Newtonian physics’ model (but useful in daily life), and some economists’ argument to reject Limits to Growth’s model because there is no supply and demand modelled explicitly.

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