“Finding a Mate With No Social Skills”

Computer scientists Chris Marriott of the University of Washington and Jobran Chebib of the University of Zürich recently posted a paper on the arXiv preprint server with the provocative title of “Finding a Mate With No Social Skills.”

Well, that title gives many of us a lot more hope, doesn’t it? In fact, there is a wonderful ambiguity in the article title: it can either refer to finding a mate without using any social skills or, more amusingly, to finding a mate who doesn’t have any social skills.

The authors seem to have the former meaning in mind. As they write in their abstract:

Sexual reproductive behavior has a necessary social coordination component as willing and capable partners must both be in the right place at the right time. While there are many known social behavioral adaptations to support solutions to this problem, we explore the possibility and likelihood of solutions that rely only on non-social mechanisms. We find three kinds of social organization that help solve this social coordination problem (herding, assortative mating, and natal philopatry) emerge in populations of simulated agents with no social mechanisms available to support these organizations. We conclude that the non-social origins of these social organizations around sexual reproduction may provide the environment for the development of social solutions to the same and different problems.

And just how do they quantify being in the right place at the right time? By finding each other at the same location of a random geometric graphs, of course. The idea behind using such a graph is to include effects from being embedded in space. (One places “nodes,” representing locations, using a random process and then connects pairs of locations to each other via “edges” if they are sufficiently close to each other.)