Saturday, March 14, 2009

Book - The evolution of Cooperation

The Evolution of Cooperation is a book I heard of back in 1991 when I first read "The selfish Gene" by Richard Dawikins. Dawkins devoted a complete chapter to the description of the particular problem for which this book poses an alternative, and his description was so compelling that it eventually led me to buy it.

The experiment is quite simple and at the same time ingenious. It handles around the problem of cooperation. This is, how is cooperation explained in a darwinian context, where all entities are supposed to be modelled as selfish, without central authority, and looking for their own best outcome? It is evident that cooperation can lead to this, that is all cooperators being best off, but, then how is cooperation evolved and configured?

To model this, Axelrod proposed a "Game" of iterated Prisioner's Dilemma between entities (computer functions) with different strategies, set them off to face each other, asigning points per round won, to see which strategy evolved as winner.

Axelrod, did not himself propose all strategies. Instead, he sent out an invitation to several scientists in the english-speaking world who proposed the strategies.

The book is very detailed in understanding first the empiric evolution of the Winning Strategy, TIT_FOR_TAT (Stategy that would mimic the behaviour of the opposite player in the next round), and then its mathematical derivation.

The four suggestions that spring out from this experiment, and as porposed by Axelrod are:
1.- Don't be envious
2.- Don't be the first to defect (betray)
3.- Reciprocate both Cooperation and Defection
4.- Don't be too clever.

I cannot but wonder at the inmense practical applicability of the rules here derived.

Product Details,
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: Basic Books; Revised edition (December 4, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0465005640
ISBN-13: 978-0465005642
Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches

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