Cooperation Commons: Interdisciplinary study of cooperation and collective action.
The Evolution of Cooperation
Summary of: The Evolution of Cooperation
"The objective of this enterprise is to develop a theory of cooperation that can be used to discover what is necessary for cooperation to emerge."
Chapter 1, The Problem of Cooperation. Why do people (or other actors) cooperate? "The objective of this enterprise is to develop a theory of cooperation that can be used to discover what is necessary for cooperation to emerge." It uses the Prisoner's Dilemma as a framework for testing theories about balancing self-interest and competition.
"In the Prisoners' Dilemma, the strategy that works best depends directly on what strategy the other player is using and, in particular, on whether this strategy leaves room for the development of mutual cooperation."
Chapter 2, TIT FOR TAT. "The iterated Prisoners' Dilemma has become the E. Coli of social psychology," yet people have not paid much attention to how to play the game well. Axelrod organized a computer tournament to which people familiar with PD submitted programs encoding different strategies. The winner was one of the simplest, TIT FOR TAT.
Axelrod then constructed an environment in which different programs competed, and the losing programs were eliminated: this was an ecology that rewarded high scoring programs, and punished others. "This process simulates survival of the fittest. A rule that is successful on average with the current distribution of rules in the population will become an even larger proportion of the environment of the other rules in the next generation. At first, a rule that is successful with all sorts of rules will proliferate, but later as the unsuccessful rules disappear, success requires good performance with other successful rules." In other words, the competition gets tougher.
"The analysis of the tournament results indicate that there is a lot to be learned about coping in an environment of mutual power. Even expert strategists from political science, sociology, economics, psychology, and mathematics made the systematic errors of being too competitive for their own good, not being forgiving enough, and being too pessimistic about the responsiveness of the other side."
The tournaments reveal that "there is a single property which distinguishes the relatively high-scoring entries from the relatively low-scoring entries. This is the property of being nice, which is to say never being the first to defect."
TIT FOR TAT's rules for success:
Chapter 4, Trench Warfare. During World War I, "live and let live" arrangements emerged spontaneously between opposing units on the Western Front. Cooperation could take hold because "the same small units faced each other in immobile sectors for extended periods of time." Consequently, they had a more sustained relationship than in mobile warfare, and could develop commonly-understood rules, reciprocity and restraint in attacks, displays of strength (e.g., snipers shooting at hard targets)as well as ethics (recognition that there was an arrangement and violating it was immoral) and rituals (e.g., regular artillery firing).
"Cooperation first emerged spontaneously in a variety of contexts, such as restraint in attacking the distribution of enemy rations, a pause during the first Christmas in the trenches, and a slow resumption of fighting after bad weather made sustained combat almost impossible. These restraints quickly evolved into clear patterns of mutually understood behavior, such as two-for-one or three-for-one retaliation for actions that were taken to be unacceptable."
Chapter 6, How to Choose Effectively. Four suggestions about how to do well in PD:
Chapter 7, How to Promote Cooperation. Promoting cooperation can be thought of as an exercise in tinkering with the variables in a PD. "As long as the interaction is not iterated, cooperation is very difficult. That is why an important way to promote cooperation is to arrange that the same two individuals will meet each other again, be able to recognize each other from the past, and to recall how the other has behaved until now."
Chapter 8, The Social Structure of Cooperation.
Chapter 9, The Robustness of Reciprocity.
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