Over the past 3.5 billion years, living organisms have evolved to acquire, process, store, and transmit information. How do they do this, at scales from molecular to societal? How have living systems evolved to handle the problems of information storage and processing, problems of transmission and reliability, problems of trust and deception?
My research addresses these problems through the lens of evolutionary biology. Together with evolutionary theory, I use mathematical game theory and the statistical theory of signal transmission to understand the flow of information in the natural world. I seek to explain how living organisms evolve to process and exchange information on multiple levels: between the cells in a body, between the individuals in a population, and between rival populations of organisms. And I seek to understand how information flows through the evolutionary process itself. By exploring evolution in an information-theoretic framework, we highlight the way that selection generates correlation between the sequence properties of environmental history and the sequence properties of life itself.
I am particularly interested in the strategic aspects of information use: Why do organisms share information even when their interests conflict? Why do individuals share some pieces of information and not others? Why do signals take the forms that they do? Why don't cheaters exploit and undermine communication by sending deceptive signals? Regardless of the taxonomic level on which we focus --- from bacteria coordinating the production of toxins, to birds advertising for mates, to humans communicating via email --- evolutionary game theory provides us with a way to formalize these sorts of interactions, and ultimately to understand how communication can evolve.