Read The Evolution Of Cooperation by Robert Axelrod Free Online
Book Title: The Evolution Of Cooperation|
The author of the book: Robert Axelrod
ISBN 13: 9780465021215
Edition: Basic Books
Date of issue: October 1st 1985
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 326 KB
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Reader ratings: 6.7
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The Evolution of Cooperation, is one of the most original and striking books I've ever read on the psychology of behavior and cooperation, and how these behaviors propagate.
Axelrod's book, which is an expansion of a collaborative paper with an evolutionary biologist W. D. Hamilton, studies a scenario in game theory which is called 'The Prisoners' Dilemma'. It's a popular idea, which has been used in game shows and a recent Batman movie. I quote:
Two members of a criminal gang are arrested and imprisoned. Each prisoner is in solitary confinement with no means of speaking to or exchanging messages with the other. The police admit they don't have enough evidence to convict the pair on the principal charge. They plan to sentence both to a year in prison on a lesser charge. Simultaneously, the police offer each prisoner a Faustian bargain. Each prisoner is given the opportunity either to betray the other, by testifying that the other committed the crime, or to cooperate with the other by remaining silent.
Here's how it goes:
If A and B both betray the other, each of them serves 2 years in prison
If A betrays B but B remains silent, A will be set free and B will serve 3 years in prison (and vice versa)
If A and B both remain silent, both of them will only serve 1 year in prison (on the lesser charge)
Now the dilemma is whether any person would willingly cooperate with the other prisoner. Theories of behavior which hold that individuals are naturally selfish and self-interested (like Hobbes) could argue that people are more likely to act in their own interests alone and refuse to work with anyone else. Those who said that humans were more inclined to cooperate (like Kropotkin) would say that the benefits of cooperating outweighed the possible risks of not doing so. So who was right?
Axelrod studied this idea with a simple experiment. In the 1980s, he sent out a magazine/mail campaign to various game theorists, computer hobbyists, and other members of academia asking for a computer program (remember, this was before the internet) which outlined a theory of behavior which 'won' the most times in repeated examples of the prisoner's dilemma.
Once he received all the programs, he set them up in a round-robin tournament against each other, and compared the results. The winner was a very short program (four lines long) called TIT FOR TAT. Its principles were simple. First, it would always cooperate with the other program unless provoked. Second, once it was provoked, it would always go against the other program. Third, once the other player decided to cooperate, it would thus return to cooperation as if nothing had happened. This strategy far and away scored the most points in Axelrod's tournament, and was able to beat many other complex strategies.
The rest of the book is an expansion upon this theme, and summaries of further work with the TIT FOR TAT program and its major competitors. One of Axelrod's major examples of the idea of cooperation comes from a historical anecdote in World War I, where units which were placed against each other for long stretches in the trenches spontaneously decided not to shoot at each other. They would deliberately miss each other with artillery for the sake of satisfying the generals, and would attack only if some new officer made the mistake of breaking the established pattern.
Now such an idea for cooperative behavior has obvious implications for the rest of game theory, to say nothing of the rest of the social science - political science, international relations, economics, sociology, and so on. At least within the confines of a simple non-zero-sum world, cooperation has its clear benefits. However, such a structure has its roots not only in modern political systems, but in behavioral biology and human evolution.
The main question lies with the theories of the social Darwinists of the 19th century and their interpretation of biological history - all life really is a 'survival of the fittest', then how did any cooperation occur at all? Axelrod's answer is that those organisms which cooperate, even to non-relatives or even strangers, are more likely to survive. Altruism is a very robust social structure, where even one individual in a hostile environment can gradually lead to its spread.
Now all this is based off of Axelrod's very modest claims under a very modest set of circumstances under a very limited experiment. Of course the circumstances under which this experiment was performed will not always apply to every situation in modern life or politics, especially where there is envy, or where any of the competitors feels as though it must always win.
But even this simple experiment is a case of scientific optimism, where some supposed truth is discovered that could lead to some form of progress. This sample of game theory should not, and cannot, be used as a panacea for all of humankind's problems, but it is at the very least a fascinating experiment with multiple repercussions in many places.
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Read information about the authorFrom wikipedia:
Robert Axelrod (born 1943) is a Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of Michigan. He has appointments in the Department of Political Science and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Prior to moving to Michigan, he taught at the University of California, Berkeley (1968-1974). He holds a BA in mathematics from the University of Chicago (1964) and a PhD in political science from Yale University (1969).
He is best known for his interdisciplinary work on the evolution of cooperation, which has been cited in numerous articles. His current research interests include complexity theory (especially agent-based modeling), and international security. Among his honors and awards are membership in the National Academy of Sciences, a five-year MacArthur Prize Fellowship, the Newcomb Cleveland Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences for an outstanding contribution to science, and the National Academy of Sciences Award for "Behavioral Research Relevant to the Prevention of Nuclear War".
Recently Axelrod has consulted and lectured on promoting cooperation and harnessing complexity for the United Nations, the World Bank, the U.S. Department of Defense, and various organizations serving health care professionals, business leaders, and K-12 educators.
Axelrod was the President of the American Political Science Association (APSA) for the 2006-2007 term. He focused his term on the theme of interdisciplinarity.
In May 2006, Axelrod was awarded an honorary degree by Georgetown University.
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