The life history of foraging in 15 human societies: High-dimension Bayesian statistics with Hamiltonian Monte Carlo
- Richard McElreath (New Director at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig)
Unlike other primates, humans specialize in skill intensive subsistence requiring decades to learn and generations to invent. To understand the evolution of the human niche, we must integrate the cultural evolution of subsistence skills and technology with the genetic evolution of slow human life history. I present ongoing work analyzing the development of foraging skills, leveraging 15-thousand foraging records from 600 human foragers in 15 societies around the globe. These data exhibit many statistical maladies, including imbalance and missing values. Hamiltonian Monte Carlo allows fitting high-dimension (more than 20-thousand parameter) Bayesian life history models that respect variation both within and between societies, while also imputing missing values and respecting measurement uncertainty. I'll outline the background theory, describe technical challenges, and present intermediate results.