Specific Criticism: Lawful Uncertainty

From this OB thread: Lawful Uncertainty

Foraging animals make the same ‘mistake’: given two territories in which to forage, one of which has a much more plentiful resource and is far more likely to reward an investment of effort and time with a payoff, the obvious strategy is to only forage in the richer territory; however, animals instead split their time between the two spaces as the relative probability of a successful return.

In other words, if one territory is twice as likely to produce food through foraging as the other, animals spend twice as much time there: 2/3rds of their time in the richer territory, 1/3rd of their time in the poorer. Similar patterns hold when there are more than two foraging territories involved.

Although this results in a short-term reduction in food acquisition, it’s been shown that this strategy minimizes the chances of exploiting the resource to local extinction, and ensures that the sudden loss of one territory for some reason (blight of the resource, natural diaster, predation threats, etc.) doesn’t result in a total inability to find food.

The strategy is highly adaptive in its original context. The problem with humans that we retain our evolved, adaptive behaviors long after the context changes to make them non- or even mal-adaptive.


7 Responses to “Specific Criticism: Lawful Uncertainty”

  1. Reminds me of Robin’s frequent references to an Easter Egg hunt.

    Are you claiming that we currently diversify too much (collectively) because it was adaptive in the past?

  2. Nick Tarleton Says:

    Why is this labeled “specific criticism”?

  3. “Are you claiming that we currently diversify too much (collectively) because it was adaptive in the past?”

    Actually, I would argue that we diversify too little, generally. But in the specified context, the strategy of splitting is maladaptive.

    “Why is this labeled “specific criticism”?”

    Because it addresses the arguments of a single, specific post, as opposed to arguments that span many posts – such as those underlying FAI.

  4. Could you give me a reference for this? It’s especially the kind of stuff I’m interested in. Thanks

  5. Incidentally, are you the same Caledonian who was banned from Pharyngula?

  6. No, and yes, respectively.

  7. What is the specified context in which splitting is maladaptive?

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