Meme transmission in artificial proto-cultures

  • Andrew Guest

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


"I daresay you haven’t had much practice," said the Queen. "When I
was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes
I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found

This thesis examines an artificial proto-culture of e-Puck robots to examine which factors affect the transmission of memes, in the form of sounds imitated back and forth between the robots, to determine which factors promote or inhibit meme diversity and spread.Meme theory posits that the development of cultural artifacts such as ideas, myths, religions, etc. arises naturally from cultural information transfer by imitation. It has been suggested that ’copybots’, robots programmed to imitate each other, would eventually lead to the emergence of something recognizable as culture[13]. This thesis describes part of a research project which sought to use e-Puck robots to implement a copybot based system to examine this proto-culture emergence. The group implemented an Artificial Culture lab for experiments using the e-Puck robots. Here the focus is on the imitation of sound patterns (the memes) within a group of ePucks to examine which factors promote or inhibit meme diversity and spread. Other parts of the research group examined the imitation of movement patterns, human perceptions (and preconceptions of robots), and abstract societal level modeling.Within is described a simulator and a series of experiments on the imitation of sounds using that simulator that examine the factors affecting meme transmission in homogeneous populations and evolving heterogeneous populations. These experiments show that they key factor in promoting meme diversity and spread is simply the frequency with which imitation occurs. They also show that memory size plays a smaller role and selection strategy (for choosing which meme to imitate) plays a lesser role still.

"If you’ve done six impossible things this morning, why not round it off
with breakfast at Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe."
Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe[1]
Date of AwardAug 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Abertay University
SponsorsEngineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
SupervisorJames Bown (Supervisor) & Andrew Sapeluk (Supervisor)


  • Meme transmission
  • Evolutionary swarm robotics
  • Emergence
  • Memes
  • Culture
  • Imitation

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