Culture & Knowledge: A Dynamic Model

Although the “civilization” stages of the game (Awakening and beyond) are still a ways away, I do not stop thinking for ways we could implement systems for when we get there. One that has gone under constant iteration is how culture will be represented. Another such system is how technology will be represented. I’ve recently thought of a system that in one stroke encompasses both of those.

Life Quality, Intelligence, and Knowledge Space

All inhabitants of your civilization have a certain “Quality of Life” statistic. This represents how good their access to their various needs and demands are, as well as how much free time they have. Needs and demands can range from basic needs like food, water, and clothing, to more sophisticated needs like entertainment, recreation, luxuries, community, and more. When these are satisfied well, a person’s life is not only more comfortable but they also have more free time.

What does this lead to? It increases the average “Intelligence” of those inhabitants. Intelligence is a flexible statistic, although it starts at a base value based on the physiology of your species, it raises when your people live in prosperity with a high quality of life. People with better health can worry less about the diseases they have or their children have. People with more free time can worry less about gathering enough food before sundown. Instead, these people can now focus more on composing a beautiful poem, or learning new farming techniques. Intelligence can also rise from other factors like education (formal or informal).

Intelligence generates “Knowledge Space” for your society. Knowledge Space represents the total “capacity” of what your society can know and pass down at once. Increase the intelligence of your society, and you increase your society’s overall Knowledge Space. However, not all knowledge is the same! Different classes of people will produce different types of Knowledge Space. This is because within professions there can be very technical and specific knowledge that general people do not bother learning or remembering. Blacksmiths will produce “Metalworking” knowledge space, Farmers will produce “Agriculture” knowledge space, and lastly everyone will produce a little bit of “Social” knowledge space. “Social” knowledge space represents knowledge of everyday, social interactions, as well as the social organization of your society. It essentially represents the “Culture” of a society. Finally, there are some sources that can provide general knowledge space that can be filled by any type of knowledge. For example, the construction of a library allows any type of knowledge to be stored there. If knowledge space is full, your society cannot learn new things unless they unlearn an older thing. Or unless they increase their intelligence to generate more knowledge space. Also, if there is a brutal war, disease, or economic depression, their can be a loss of knowledge space which leads to some things being forgotten, as the quality of life and thus intelligence of different classes decrease.

Well what do you do with your Knowledge Space? You use it to learn new things for your society. Knowledge Space can be filled by three things: Knowledges, Beliefs, and Practices. Because Knowledge Space is shared by these three, your society will have to balance its Space between knowledges that unlock new tools and machines, beliefs that change peoples views, and practices which change consumption habits. The three will be explained below:


“Knowledges” represent discoveries of how the world works. They can be thought of as the traditional “Technologies” you see in other games. At the beginning, they are very simple: Fire, Tools, Shelter, Animal Capture. These knowledges can unlock a whole host of new interactions, access to new resources, construction of new tools, machines, or buildings, or provide new ways for your society to organize itself. As the generations progress, these can advance into much more sophisticated ideas like: Code of Laws, Gunpowder, Pistons. Knowledges are specifically researched and discovered by the player (AKA the state). Knowledges can take up any type of knowledge space.


“Beliefs” represent philosophies or views of life that your people keep in mind and live by. Beliefs can range from “Divine Right”, where the people truly believe that their leaders are divinely ordained, to “Rule of Honour”, where people believe it is up to individuals and their families to enforce laws, not some external organization. Where knowledges typically unlock new tools, resources, machines, and buildings to your people, beliefs tend more to change their views on what currently exists around them. Beliefs could make them more subservient to the ruling government, or less subservient. Beliefs could make people vote a certain way, or see certain professions as more prestigious, and more. Where knowledges are typically discovered by great scientists, engineers, or economists, beliefs are created by great philosophers, statesmen, or even prophets. Beliefs will spawn and despawn automatically, and can only be encouraged, discouraged, or banned by the player. Beliefs only take up “Social” space (though I’m not set on this).


Practices are traditional and habitual ways that people live their lives, and fulfill their daily needs. Practices have less of an effect on people’s views. Instead, they are more likely to change their consumption habits. Practices will affect what goods and services people demand, as well as how they typically run certain aspects of their lives. For example, a society may have a practice of “Ceramic Art” which makes pottery a higher valued resource in that society, raising its demand and thus its price. Perhaps that may also make more people in that society become potters, making that society particularly adept at pottery-making and start exporting some of their ceramics to nearby societies. An important point is that Practices can add new needs or demands to your people to fulfill. For example the Practice of Wool Clothing will create demand for wool clothing among your people. Then, fulfilling this demand will increase your peoples’ overall Quality of Life and Intelligence. Therefore Practices can be a useful tool to increase the intelligence of your people by increasing the number of resources and services they use in their lives. Practices will spawn and despawn automatically, and can only be encouraged, discouraged, or banned by the player. Practices only take up “Social” space (though I’m not set on this).


So what determines what “Culture” a person identifies with? A society’s cultural identity is comprised of the latter two categories, Beliefs and Practices. Your “Culture” is comprised by the entire set of beliefs and practices your culture follows. Similarity between cultures is simply a measure of how much overlap there is between their lists of beliefs and practices. For example, a similarity of 33% means that two cultures share one third of all their beliefs and practices. Higher similarity increases the amicability between peoples of those cultures.

There are a few other identifiers as well. These are:

  • Homeland - Where that culture traditionally believes they originate from.
  • Language - What language that culture primarily speaks.
  • Ideology - What religion, philosophy, or ideology that culture primarily identifies with.
  • Alphabet - What alphabet that culture uses to write its language.

Each of these contribute towards the similarity score. Each of these are dynamic and can change over time. A migration, followed by a long-term settlement in a new area, can cause the Homeland to shift to a new region. Languages can be taught and forgotten. Ideologies can be spread or repressed. Most importantly, a government can use all of these as tools to unite or divide peoples. A government with culturally disparate citizens can teach them all a common language, teach them all a common alphabet to write with, or convert them all to a common ideology, to increase the similarity score and reduce cultural tensions, as well as promote assimilation.

How Does Culture Change?

For each component of culture, here is how it can evolve:

  • Beliefs - Since they can spawn and despawn randomly, there is an element of randomness to its spread. However, cities that share frequent travel and communication will see beliefs spread from one to another. This means that cities that are divided by geography (like mountains, dense forests, or hard to cross bodies of water) will evolve separate beliefs. This also means that cities separated politically, such as if they belong to different states with a closed border, or separate states that are at war, will evolve separate beliefs. The further apart cultures are, the more likely they will evolve differently. However, a shared government can help bring this evolution closer together. Not only can they remove borders and increase travel/communication, they can also promote shared beliefs.
  • Practices - Same as above.
  • Homeland - As cultures belong to a common nation for longer periods of time, they will gradually begin to gain a sense of belonging to larger geographical regions. This means countries that are united and peaceful for a long time can create a sense of identity amongst its peoples (think of the evolution of Virginians, Delawarians, and Carolinians into Americans).
  • Language - Languages will spawn and evolve automatically. They will coalesce between cities if they share frequent travel/communication. So, as with beliefs, geographic and political boundaries will cause languages to evolve separately. Therefore, a successful empire that unites many provinces, or an advance in technology that greatly increases transportation in a region, can cause regional languages to coalesce into a widely spoken common language. Languages can also be taught via education, giving governments a tool to unite their internal minorities.
  • Ideology - Ideologies represent external “blueprints” of culture. By this I mean that each ideology will be comprised of a set of beliefs and practices that define that ideology. When a culture adopts an ideology, they will slowly drift towards those beliefs and practices. Ideologies can randomly spawn, but they can also be created by powerful statesmen, philosophers, or prophets. If a culture that follows an ideology drifts too far away from the original ideologies “tenets” or “blueprint”, they will branch off and create their own subset of that ideology. Ideologies are another powerful tool that governments can use to unite or divide their peoples (or the peoples of other societies through espionage).
  • Alphabet - Alphabets are the writing systems devised through the world. They will very rarely randomly spawn if a society naturally creates them. Usually, they will need to be created as a result of a lengthy government project. Once a government has created an alphabet, they can try to teach its use to different cultures. Even if a culture speaks a different language they can learn your alphabet, which will increase intelligibility and understanding between your peoples (think of the Byzantines teaching the Greek alphabet to the Slavic peoples). Because alphabets are so hard to create, there will be far fewer of them then there are languages in the world, so many languages will share common alphabets. Again, alphabets are a powerful tool for governments and can be taught through domestic education, or foreign diplomatic missions.

As a result of everything we’ve discussed above what are the interactions we can see between cultures?

  • Differentiation - If one culture exists in two places, and the two evolve differently enough below a certain similarity score (such as 50%), one of the cultures will get randomly renamed to a new culture, showing the cultural difference that has evolved between those two peoples. (Think of the split between the roman provinces’ identities after the fall of Rome in the West)
  • Hybridization - If two cultures are in close proximity and begin to evolve towards each other to the point where they reach a high similarity score, and both evolve far enough away from their original cultures, they will both get assigned into a new, hybrid culture. (Think of the creation of the Norman culture, a blend of Frankish and Norsemen influences)
  • Assimilation - If two cultures are in close proximity, and one evolves a lot more while the the other remains mostly the same, and the two reach a high similarity score, the culture that rapidly evolved will get assimilated into the other culture. (Think of the Arab-ization of the Muslim world following the conquests of the Umayyad Caliphate)
What would be interesting to see is diffusion. In human history, civilizations have always ripped off an element of their culture from another or shared their culture with the world such as Marco Polo brought back pasta from China.

What equation could fulfill the role of diffusion?

Let’s pose variables.

C^A represents Civilization A.

C^B represents Civilization B.
Type Civilization A Civilization B
Agriculture Wheat Rice
Materials Stone Porcelain
Weapons Sword Explosives
Imagine that Civilization A (Sender) sends an explorer/trader to another part of the world to discover new things. He finds Civilization B (Receiver) and trades with them. Let’s say he gives stone in exchange for porcelain.
E^A represents an element of A’s culture (e.g. stone).

E^B represents an element of B’s culture (e.g. porcelain).

Equation in construction …


Yeah definitely, as I said in the original post increased travel and communication between cities and cultures can increase the spread of knowledges, beliefs and practices between them. For example, “agriculture” could be spread as a knowledge, or more specificially “cereals domestication” could be spread as a knowledge (depending on how granular we want to make the tech tree).

On the other hand, the consumption habits of these resources could also spread. “Wheat cuisine” could be a practice that spreads from one civilization to another, representing a set of recipes and cuisines involving wheat and greatly increasing the consumption of wheat in that culture. Another could be “Porcelain art”, greatly increasing the usage of porcelain.


Overall, I really like this model. A few comments I had.

  1. I’m not much for the (knowledge = “discoveries of how the world works” / Beliefs = “philosophies or views of life that your people keep in mind and live by”. That is even straightforward technologies rarely did not come from some sort of basic philosophy that happened to be efficient enough to work (much like your belief example “divine right” comes from a basic philosophy about why monarchs should rule which was verified by its efficiency (in this case maintain a stable power structure and thus society)).
    One idea this gives me is an “sufficiency rating” for beliefs that can deteriorate or grow over time based on it’s ability to fullfil it’s own meaningfulness.
  2. I feel like knowledge space should be more fluid or have some sort of way of being backed-up. Like, libraries (and other formal knowledge institutions) being destroyed might make it more difficult to retain pieces of knowledge in a society but having entirely get rid of entire societal concepts (like metalworking) seems overly brittle. My thinking is, by going by the sufficiency of knowledge bases, perhaps the library works as a modifier to guarenteeing the sufficiency level of some number of previous beliefs (which can not maintain their own sufficiency in the society) are kept. But when a library is destroyed, it’s stored beliefs now lose suffiency over time like any other belief that is not actively sufficient to the society. This also works quite nicely when thinking of irl libraries such as the Library of Congress (full of knowledge like fiction-writing, historical documents, and obscure non-fiction(ei. Not immediately sufficient to society but can be easily retrieved if it is lost in active society).
  3. What do you mean when you say a “more rapidly evolved culture”. Does this mean an increase in intelligence? quality of life? Or just any change in these qualities(up or down) in a rapid way?
  1. Could you rephrase your point here? I’m not sure what you mean, especially with this sentence: “That is even straightforward technologies rarely did not come from some sort of basic philosophy that happened to be efficient enough to work”
  2. One way the system could be more fluid, which I didn’t mention, is if knowledge was also local to cities. This way a widespread technology would be hard to forget, because it is stored and practiced in every city so the destruction of a library in one city will not remove that knowledge. On the other hand, a very sophisticated technology that is rarely used and only stored in one city’s knowledge would be easily forgotten.
  3. I mean the culture that evolved further away from its original culture. The one that “moved” further gets assimilated into the one that “moved” less, since the former was influenced more.
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