Language evolution may be driven by mutations designed to increase the robustness of survival, a study reports:
Even if everything about different groups of animals is identical down to the level of their genes and physical surroundings, they can develop unique ways to communicate, according to an experiment done with robots that use flashing lights to “talk.”
The Swiss researchers used the robots to get handle on why there is such diversity in communication systems within and between species, something that is difficult to do in living animals.
The answer, they found, “is contingencies in evolutionary history, i.e. stochasticity (randomness) in the occurrence order of new … traits,” Steffen Wischmann, a researcher in the department of ecology and evolution at the University of Lausanne, told me in an email….
In other words, there’s a tradeoff between communication efficiency and competitive robustness, the researchers note. And, randomness in evolutionary history can affect the outcome of competition between populations.
A perfectly efficient language will never evolve, one might speculate, because efficiency is just one among many variables to have an impact on species survival.