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The Evolution of Cooperation

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Evolution of Cooperation generally refers to:

the study of how cooperation can emerge and persist (also known as cooperation theory) as elucidated by application of game theory, a 1981 paper by political scientist Robert Axelrod and evolutionary biologist W. D. Hamilton (Axelrod & Hamilton 1981) in the scientific literature, or a 1984 book by Axelrod (Axelrod 1984) that expanded on the paper and popularized the study.

This article is an introduction to how game theory and computer modeling are illuminating certain aspects of moral and political philosophy, particularly the role of individuals in groups, the "biology of selfishness and altruism", and how cooperation can be evolutionarily advantageous.

Operations Research

The idea that human behavior can be usefully analyzed mathematically gained great credibility following the application of operations research in World War II to improve military operations. One famous example involved how the Royal Air Force hunted submarines in the Bay of Biscay. It had seemed to make sense to patrol the areas where submarines were most frequently seen. Then it was pointed out that "seeing the most submarines" was also a function of patrol density – i.e., of the number of eyes looking. Making an allowance for patrol density showed that patrols were more efficient – that is, found more submarines per patrol – in other areas. Making appropriate adjustments increased the overall effectiveness.

Game Theory

Accounts of the success of operations research during the war, publication in 1944 of John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern's Theory of Games and Economic Behavior (Von Neumann & Morgenstern 1944) on the use of game theory for developing and analyzing optimal strategies for military and other uses, and publication of John William's The Compleat Strategyst, a popular exposition of game theory, led to a greater appreciation of mathematical analysis of human behavior.

But game theory had a little crisis: it could not find a strategy for a simple game called "The Prisoner's Dilemma" (PD) where two players have the option to cooperate together for mutual gain, but each also takes a risk of being suckered.

Prisoner's Dilemma

The Prisoner's Dilemma game (invented around 1950 by Merrill Flood and Melvin Dresher) takes its name from the following scenario: you and a criminal associate have been busted. Fortunately for you, most of the evidence was shredded, so you are facing only a year in prison. But the prosecutor wants to nail someone, so he offers you a deal: if you squeal on your associate – which will result in his getting a five year stretch – the prosecutor will see that six months is taken off of your sentence. Which sounds good, until you learn your associate is being offered the same deal – which would get you five years.

So what do you do? The best that you and your associate can do together is to not squeal: that is, to cooperate (with each other, not the prosecutor!) in a mutual bond of silence, and do your year. But wait: if your associate cooperates (that sucker!) , can you do better by squealing ("defecting") to get that six month reduction? It's tempting, but then he's also tempted. And if you both squeal, oh, no, it's four and half years each. So perhaps you should cooperate – but wait, that's being a sucker yourself, as your associate will undoubtedly defect, and you won't even get the six months off.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Evolution of Cooperation generally refers to:

the study of how cooperation can emerge and persist (also known as cooperation theory) as elucidated by application of game theory, a 1981 paper by political scientist Robert Axelrod and evolutionary biologist W. D. Hamilton (Axelrod & Hamilton 1981) in the scientific literature, or a 1984 book by Axelrod (Axelrod 1984) that expanded on the paper and popularized the study.

This article is an introduction to how game theory and computer modeling are illuminating certain aspects of moral and political philosophy, particularly the role of individuals in groups, the "biology of selfishness and altruism", and how cooperation can be evolutionarily advantageous.

Operations Research

The idea that human behavior can be usefully analyzed mathematically gained great credibility following the application of operations research in World War II to improve military operations. One famous example involved how the Royal Air Force hunted submarines in the Bay of Biscay. It had seemed to make sense to patrol the areas where submarines were most frequently seen. Then it was pointed out that "seeing the most submarines" was also a function of patrol density – i.e., of the number of eyes looking. Making an allowance for patrol density showed that patrols were more efficient – that is, found more submarines per patrol – in other areas. Making appropriate adjustments increased the overall effectiveness.

Game Theory

Accounts of the success of operations research during the war, publication in 1944 of John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern's Theory of Games and Economic Behavior (Von Neumann & Morgenstern 1944) on the use of game theory for developing and analyzing optimal strategies for military and other uses, and publication of John William's The Compleat Strategyst, a popular exposition of game theory, led to a greater appreciation of mathematical analysis of human behavior.

But game theory had a little crisis: it could not find a strategy for a simple game called "The Prisoner's Dilemma" (PD) where two players have the option to cooperate together for mutual gain, but each also takes a risk of being suckered.

Prisoner's Dilemma

The Prisoner's Dilemma game (invented around 1950 by Merrill Flood and Melvin Dresher) takes its name from the following scenario: you and a criminal associate have been busted. Fortunately for you, most of the evidence was shredded, so you are facing only a year in prison. But the prosecutor wants to nail someone, so he offers you a deal: if you squeal on your associate – which will result in his getting a five year stretch – the prosecutor will see that six months is taken off of your sentence. Which sounds good, until you learn your associate is being offered the same deal – which would get you five years.

So what do you do? The best that you and your associate can do together is to not squeal: that is, to cooperate (with each other, not the prosecutor!) in a mutual bond of silence, and do your year. But wait: if your associate cooperates (that sucker!) , can you do better by squealing ("defecting") to get that six month reduction? It's tempting, but then he's also tempted. And if you both squeal, oh, no, it's four and half years each. So perhaps you should cooperate – but wait, that's being a sucker yourself, as your associate will undoubtedly defect, and you won't even get the six months off.

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