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Copystree: Gaming artificial phylogenies

The reconstruction of phylogenies of cultural artefacts represents an open problem that mixes theoretical and computational challenges. Existing benchmarks rely on simulated phylogenies, where hypotheses on the underlying evolutionary mechanisms are unavoidable, or on real data phylogenies, for which no true evolutionary history is known.

Here we introduce a web-based game, Copystree, where users create phylogenies of manuscripts through successive copying actions in a fully monitored setup. While players enjoy the experience, Copystree allows to build artificial phylogenies whose evolutionary processes do not obey any predefined theoretical mechanisms, being generated instead with the unpredictability of human creativity. We present the analysis of the data gathered during the first set of experiments and use the artificial phylogenies gathered for a first test of existing phylogenetic algorithms.


S. Pompei, V. Loreto, F. Tria, Copystree: Gaming artificial phylogenies, Language Dynamics and Change 8(1) (2018) 55-77

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