Evolutionary and psychological arguments for parsimony:

mathematician's perspectives on Wittgenstein language games, narrative management, and Occam's razor


Referent: Prof. Dr. Drago Bokal (University of Maribor)

Moderation: Dr. Sorin Nistor (UniBw M)

22. November 2023, 14:30 Uhr Raum 33/2111


Markov decision process models the world with two measurable spaces: it distinguishes the space of the states of the world and the space of actions to change the world. The interface theory of perceptions extends these by introducing the space of the images of the world, allowing to model imperfect perceptions. We propose an universal process model that extends the above by the space of epistemologies, allowing to model distinct Wittgenstein language games describing the world. 

As a first insight from the above model, we revisit a Mark-Marion-Hoffman claim that veristic strategies are evolutionarily disfavored against utilitaristic strategies. We extend their argument by demonstrating that veracity allows for innovation, and that innovative veristic strategies may have evolutionary advantages over utilitaristic strategies. However, the true evolutionary winners are innovative utilitaristic strategies, resulting in an evolutionary argument for parsimony. 

As the second insight, we present a knowledge structure of 3-connected k-crossing-critical graphs as a Wittgenstein game with k being a constrained resource. The theorems about these graphs allow us to argue that scarcity of a resource induces a more authoritarian structure of the world described by the Wittgenstein language game. The more resources a society produces, the more complex language games it can exhibit. Likely also conversely, more complex language games allow for producing more resources.

As a final insight, we present Csikszentmihalyi's model of emotional states, and a simulated process of learning in this model. The phase space of this model shows that as the ability of a process to learn grows, its predominant emotion shifts from apathy to boredom to relaxation to control and converges to flow, a psychologically optimal experience. When more and more concepts are introduced to be learned, the predominant emotional state changes in the opposite direction. A psychological argument for parsimony hence stems from the observation that more complex language games induce less favorable predominant emotional experience. 

We conclude by applying the above to green and digital transformation of European economies. Digital transformation brings focus on perceptions that can be digitalized. Green transformation constrains the approaches to production of resources. They both affect the predominant narrative and enforce the epistemology of productive processes to focus away from effective production. As a result, the processes that produce sufficient excess to allow for the veristic strategies to innovate in the above context will likely benefit from the transformation. However, the processes that do not produce the required excess will likely become more utilitarian, autocratic, or apathic. As such, there is a risk to experience the green and digital transformation as another instance of the Matthew effect: For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.