The High Cost of Mimicry in Human Evolution

The first and longest era of Homo’s cultural evolution (which began about 2 million years ago and ended about 100,000 years ago with the development of a full-fledged language with complex grammar and vocabulary in humans) was the “proto-symbolic” or “mimetic” era. In those distant times, the transmission of information and emotions during communication and social learning was based on body language, gestures, facial expressions, and imitation.

Imitation was then the most important element of mimetic communication and social learning, allowing individuals to demonstrate and transmit experience through imitation of actions, objects, or states without the use of symbols or language in its modern sense.

And even after the change from the “mimetic era” to the “symbolic” (with the development of language with complex grammar and vocabulary, including abstract concepts), the practice of imitation remained firmly embedded in human nature, being a simple and reliable, million-year-tested approach to choosing social strategies.

Therefore, even today, in our super-duper developed society, the aspiration of individuals to success (from politicians to start-uppers) is still based on imitation - imitation of those who are considered the most successful in the socio-economic systems of society.

And how is it determined who is most successful? Simply, participants in socio-economic systems are ranked by their effectiveness, reducing to ordered lists. And this is done everywhere: from academic research to business.

However, modern research shows that in many contexts, those who reach the top are not necessarily the most talented, as randomness plays a role in forming ratings. But alas, the role of randomness in determining success (i.e., serendipity), in most cases, is underestimated, and people stupidly imitate others, believing that the application of their strategies will lead to equivalent results.

▶️ What is the price and consequences of such neglect of serendipity in favor of imitation? (neglect, which is a rudiment of the “mimetic firmware” of our brain by evolution)

This question is answered by a new, fantastically interesting study “Imitation versus randomness in rating dynamics”, exploring the compromise between imitation and serendipity in an agent model.

Its summary is as follows.

In a society where the dominant way of achieving success is to imitate the strategies and actions of the “best”:

✔️ the “law of Matthew” rules: non-meritocratic tendencies progress in socio-economic systems: an “elite minority” receives an increasing share of rewards, goods, etc.

✔️ among the “elite minority” there are fewer and fewer really more effective

✔️ the most important indicator - diversity decreases, as all agents tend to concentrate on one single action, which may not even be related to significant social benefits.

On the contrary, when in society the predominant mechanism of movement to success is serendipity:

✔️ society becomes more egalitarian

✔️ the correlation between reward (goods, etc.) and individual skills increases

✔️ diversity grows

The summary is sad.

The suboptimality of the main social strategy of Homo sapiens reduces our key evolutionary advantage - serendipity (the ability to unplanned random discoveries in the process of creative activity).

 And who knows what you would have already achieved, relying on another evolutionary gift - not on imitation, but on serendipity.

Instructions for subconscious mind provide you the opportunity to improve your serendipity - I would recommend to use Master Solution: Remove Self-Limitations that you will get by following this link: