Language as Generative of Culture

Deborah V. Duong

SISTER (Symbolic Interactionist Simulation of Trade and Emergent Roles) simulates the coevolution between emergent symbol systems and social structure. This article demonstrates the active role that language has in creating ontologies of complex social relations, and in reproducing these relations despite the deaths of the individuals. In SISTER, new agents acquire the language of an already existing society through the pressure of other agent’s expectations. When a new agent displays a sign, it experiences selective pressure to behave according to other agent’s expectations of the behaviors that go along with the sign displayed. The emergent language of SISTER agents is grounded in the practical utility of everyday economic actions. SISTER agents follow the principles of interpretive social science, perceiving only through signs and taking feedback only through utility. Each SISTER agent has its own private genetic algorithm through which it learns the ontology and structure of society. Both the ontology and the social structure are created in the simulation: SISTER agents start our homogeneously, but differentiate into a division of labor as a result of their symbolic interaction. SISTER offers a solution to the hermeneutic paradox of how meanings are learned individually, and yet come to be shared.

Subjects: 1.2 Artificial Life; 7.1 Multi-Agent Systems


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