Evolution and Cooperation
August 11, 2007 2:25 PM   Subscribe

In Games, an Insight Into the Rules of Evolution. Carl Zimmer writes about Martin Nowak (previously mentioned here), a mathematical biologist who uses games to understand how cooperation evolved. [Via MindHacks.]
posted by homunculus (4 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
See also the work of Bert Hölldobler: Competition, Loss Of Selfishness Mark Shift To Supersociety

A Brief History of the Superorganism
posted by homunculus at 2:40 PM on August 11, 2007

The Loom rocks.
posted by delmoi at 2:52 PM on August 11, 2007

", superorganism theory confounds the way we're trained to think of evolution as acting purely on individuals, driven by so-called selfish genes. This isn't wrong, but it's not complete. "

It always annoys me to hear these people describing human interaction, especially male-female interaction, in terms of a genetic, selfish, individualistic need to pass on ones genes. It is an incredible oversimplification, considering that we are a highly social organism, and in societies there is plenty of room, even a necessity, for people who do not, nor even want to, pass on their genes.

It is interesting to read the wired links about observation of ant behavior and the recognition and division of groups lines up with the game-theory.

This part was interesting:
"15,000 years ago we were hunter gatherers. We showed group cohesiveness and discrimination against other groups....
This is my conviction that this is probably the early basis for our unfortunate xenophobic behavior that is still in us. It's a behavior that is now terribly maladaptive"
posted by eye of newt at 10:23 PM on August 11, 2007

I'm surprised that the NYT published this article in this form. It fails to mention decades of prior research on the evolution of cooperation which already used some of the same methods and derived some of the same results that the NYT attributes to Nowak. In particular:
- Robert Aumann shared the 2005 Nobel (memorial) prize in economics for his work, published in the 1950s and 60s, on the rationality of cooperation in some repeated games.
- Robert Axelrod published an article titled "The Evolution of Cooperation" in the journal Science in 1981, which was later turned into a book. His work inspired a wave of research on evolutionary games.
- John Maynard Smith was one of the pioneers in applying game theory to evolutionary biology. His 1982 book, "Evolution and the Theory of Games", discussed the role of cooperation in evolution, among other topics.
posted by gbognar at 4:18 AM on August 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

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