Modeling Specialization and Division of Labor in Cultural Evolution

University dissertation from Västerås : Mälardalen University

Abstract: Division of labor and division of knowledge are so important and common in society today that it is almost impossible to imagine a society where everyone knows the same things and perform the same tasks. This would be a society where everyone grows, or gathers, and prepares their own food, makes their own tools, builds their own house, and so on. Cultural evolution is the field of research that studies the creation and diffusion of ideas and societies. It is very uncommon for these studies to take into account the effects of specialization. This thesis will show that specialization is of great importance to cultural evolution.The thesis is divided into two parts: The first is an introduction to studies of specialization and division of labor. The thesis begins with an interdisciplinary survey of the research on division of labor and specialization, including both theoretic and empirical studies. Next is an introduction to modeling specialization and division of labor. This includes a general framework and a number of basic models of different aspects of specialization and division of labor. Part two consists of four papers. The first paper studies the interaction between specialization and cultural cumulation. The second and third paper studies cultural cumulation, under which circumstances will cultural knowledge increase and how will it be distributed in the population? The last paper is a mathematical model of how specialization of knowledge (i.e. higher education) leads to social stratification.

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