Human culture changes with time; if it didn’t, we’d all still be wearing those hairstyles that look so amusing when they appear in old yearbook photos, and the music of the 1980s would sound just like the music of the 1970s or the 1770s or…well, you get the picture. How much of a parallel there is between the process of cultural change and biological evolution is an open question.
An online experiment in the evolution of music aims to examine how cultural evolution works. A randomly generated parent generation consisting of two brief loops of sound was used to create 100 offspring, which people rate on a five-point scale from “I love it” to “I can’t stand it.” The most popular clips survive and are used to create the next generation (with some random mutations thrown in); the least popular clips vanish from the gene pool.
This CultureLab blog entry from New Scientist gives more details. For the next week or so, you can participate by listening to and rating clips. It’s a strangely compelling pursuit, like evaluating galaxies at Galaxy Zoo. Visit DarwinTunes to learn more, and click the participate link at the top to help shape the music.