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A Way to Measure Tech Complexity

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Examining a Late Acheulean hand axe.

The researchers applied statistical algorithms, including Markov modeling, to uncover structure within the tool-making process.

Credit: Bryan Meltz

An international team of scientists has developed a method of quantifying technological complexity through the measurement of fluid human actions, based on the manufacture and use of Stone Age tools.

The researchers compared sequences of producing stone flake blades to the more refined, hierarchical "grammar" of making hand axes.

They analyzed videos of tools being crafted to identify a shared action "alphabet" of event types expressing elementary body movements and object transformations in each sequence of both technologies.

The team then used statistical algorithms to define the tool-making process' underpinning structure, and formal language theory algorithms to generate a grammatical rulebook for tool-making sequences.

Emory University's Dietrich Stout said, "It took humans a couple of million years to make that technological leap. Now we can actually computationally measure and quantify this important step in evolution."

From Emory University
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Abstracts Copyright © 2021 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


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