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Paper: Evolution Favors Cooperation Over Selfishness

Soulskill posted 1 year,18 days | from the can't-we-all-just-get-along dept.

Science 245

Beeftopia writes "Conventional wisdom has suggested selfishness is most beneficial evolutionary strategy for humans, while cooperation is suboptimal. This dovetailed with a political undercurrent dating back more than a century, starting with social Darwinism. A new paper in the journal Nature Communications casts doubt on this school of thought. The paper shows that while selfishness is optimal in the short term, it fails in the long term. Cooperation is seen as the most effective long term human evolutionary strategy."

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245 comments

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Duh? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44459717)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_theory

Re:Duh? (1, Troll)

inasity_rules (1110095) | 1 year,18 days | (#44459809)

What? Ayn Rand could be wrong? The shock and horror of it!

Seriously though the question is difficult to answer on anything more than a philosophical level. It is a bit vague to quantify and would need to be rephrased to be practically measurable.. Maybe I should put my beer down and go read TFA....

Re:Duh? (2)

inasity_rules (1110095) | 1 year,18 days | (#44459841)

Ok, Apparently TFA implies it is quantifiable... Who would have thought?

Re:Duh? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460161)

That explains why so many in the USA dont believe in evolution. The "American Dream" requires you to succeed by stepping on others.

Re:Duh? (-1, Flamebait)

inasity_rules (1110095) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460299)

I am not American. While I am profoundly grateful for that fact, I have to admit that my understanding of your dream is a nightmare - in all honesty, that may well be because I misunderstand it, or perhaps I am just an over-privileged descendant of the great British Empire. It is understood that in order to succeed there must be some stepping on of others. We have just made it a bit less subtle about it in Africa.

Re:Duh? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44459869)

How oh how do we counter these academic papers that show us individualism is the path to failure?

Hey, I know, with empirical evidence!

Stalin
Mao
Pol Pot

and last but not least, a couple of hundred million dead in the name of social justice, equality, and cooperation.

Re:Duh? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44459913)

This paper must be another crazy American idea since it has to do with non-sense.

Re:Duh? (3, Insightful)

inasity_rules (1110095) | 1 year,18 days | (#44459933)

I am no communist, but I think it would be difficult to argue that selfishness benefited the species as a whole in all circumstances. Communism !=Altruism.

Re: Duh? (2)

jxander (2605655) | 1 year,18 days | (#44459973)

Selfishness in general will help to advance the species.

Selfishness in pairs or small teams is just more effective than selfishness alone.

So yeah ... "Duh?"

Re: Duh? (3, Insightful)

inasity_rules (1110095) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460023)

Small teams only? Damn. 7 Billion is such a small team... I of course bow to your no doubt more sober analysis. But, well I still can't help but think there might be some value in co-operation for a species....

Re: Duh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460253)

I still can't help but think there might be some value in co-operation for a species....

There is. For example, separately, neither one of us may be a match for jxander. But if we team up, work together, we might be able to take him down. ;)

Re: Duh? (1)

inasity_rules (1110095) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460375)

Well done AC, you have made me laugh! Let us then do this thing, not because he is necessarily wrong but for the nobility of our cause!

To be fair to him, I suspect he is implying 'general selfishness' (i.e. selfishness as a species) is 'better' (whatever that means) than individual selfishness. I might be wrong, but I am certainly 7 440ml beers down, so wrong is relative........

Re: Duh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460593)

Even if "selfishness as a species" is what he means, he's still wrong. Our selfishness as a species has lead to our abuse of nature and the ecosystem to verge of their collapse, which may, in the end, be the manner of our species undoing.

Re: Duh? (2)

inasity_rules (1110095) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460671)

Interesting...

Is it selfishness as a species or as a group of individuals that leads to an ecosystem collapse? As a species, doesn't selfishness mean survival at any cost? Even the extreme cost of preserving the ecosystem? Perhaps the error is that we are selfish on the wrong level - as individuals rather than as a species. I am admittedly drunk, but it sounds like a rather profound question, so, what the heck, I'm asking.

Re:Duh? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460017)

How oh how do we counter these academic papers that show us individualism is the path to failure?

Hey, I know, with empirical evidence!

Stalin
Mao
Pol Pot

and last but not least, a couple of hundred million dead in the name of social justice, equality, and cooperation.

That's not cooperation. That's exploiting useful idiots who go weak-kneed because tjpse sociopaths talked about cooperating. Hell, some of them even openly admitted they were exploiting useful idiots, and the idiots still allowed themselves to get exploited.

Similar to "hope and change". Yeah the US just added a weak 162K jobs last month, but 130K of them were part-time. The labor force participation rate actually fell - again. Some "recovery" [bls.gov]

Yay. Hopey-changey dopey-wopey.

Re:Duh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460089)

Stalin
Mao
Pol Pot

Those were all individuals. Now, if you could find evidence that they were working together, then maybe you'd have something.

Re:Duh? (4, Insightful)

Mystakaphoros (2664209) | 1 year,18 days | (#44459889)

What? Ayn Rand could be wrong? The shock and horror of it!

Seriously though the question is difficult to answer on anything more than a philosophical level. It is a bit vague to quantify and would need to be rephrased to be practically measurable.. Maybe I should put my beer down and go read TFA....

Never put your beer down! Priorities!

Re:Duh? (1)

inasity_rules (1110095) | 1 year,18 days | (#44459955)

Given my current moderation score I suspect you may have hit upon the deeper truth.... I'll go get me another ice cold one and leave the philosophy to the sober ones... :)

Re:Duh? (1)

rwa2 (4391) | 1 year,18 days | (#44459981)

Never put your beer down! Priorities!

Yes! Especially when you have friends like us to hold your beer for you!

Ayn Rand (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460051)

ALL of Ayn Rand's philosophy did NOT considered people's memories.

Nor did it consider people's characters. I mean really, she was a slut and adulterer.. She had a husband who put up with it. Is her philosophy for those who can't stick up for themselves? Was her husband REALLY OK with that?

It's easy to pontificate your narrow beliefs, but to actually live up to them on a large scale?

I wonder what HER sainthood would have said about Alan Greenspan's policies?

Re:Duh? (1)

alen (225700) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460071)

she was the child of russian nobles who fled after the revolution

the thought of not being able to build polluting industry close to the poor people while living away from the pollution was foreign to her

Re:Duh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460515)

> What? Ayn Rand could be wrong? The shock and horror of it!

That's it. You're out of the club!

There's no room for both? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44459727)

Everyone has to choose one or the another as their sole guiding principle?

Wait, there's another research funding application....

Corporation OVER Selfishness (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44459751)

I thought they were two sides of the same coin.

misread the title (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44459765)

I thought that said Corporation and I thought "Fuck you republicans, you don't believe in evolution!"

Outcomes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44459773)

So what should the cooperative society do with all the less cooperative human-individuals? Probably exterminate them. Together and cooperatively.

Re:Outcomes? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44459795)

So what should the cooperative society do with all the less cooperative human-individuals? Probably exterminate them. Together and cooperatively.

That would be the smartest thing to do. Unfortunately, the competative jerks are the ones with all the guns.

The good news, humanity is not long for this world, which will mean the world will soon be a better place (but alas, without us)

Re:Outcomes? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44459877)

Unfortunately, the competative jerks are the ones with all the guns.
Damn them for out-thinking the collective.

 

Re:Outcomes? (1)

alen (225700) | 1 year,18 days | (#44459849)

like the people in fly over country who talk about being independent but suck up more federal funding than everyone else?

Re:Outcomes? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44459927)

Yes, exactly. We should exterminate them. I'm sure you in your new skinny jeans and cashmere pullover can figure out how to operate the food-gathering tractor.

Re:Outcomes? (1)

alen (225700) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460099)

no biggie. just buy food from other countries like we do in the winter time

most of the food grown in the US is not fit for human consumption. its to send off to some factory to make a food product out of it

Re:Outcomes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460863)


its to send off to some factory to make a food product out of it

That's OK, we'll exterminate the lowlifes who work in a processed food factory turning unfit food into energy bars and shut down the factories. Then everyone should have only fresh organic foods in their corner grocer!

I'm curious though, what bulk food does the US import over wintertime? And if the US produces 20% of the world's food yet consumes 5% (it will probably consume less because we are exterminating the non-cooperative, overeating, fly-over state humans) where should we put all the people in the rest of the world who starve yet are still cooperative human individuals? Wait, I think I know. They'd probably understand they were excess and miserable and terminate their own life. Super! We don't even need to worry about it. It will work itself out.

Re:Outcomes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460061)

like the people in fly over country who talk about being independent but suck up more federal funding than everyone else?

Right, just like the people in trendwhore country who pretend to be independent while mooching off every city, state, and federal service they can.

I thought this was well known. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44459775)

Cooperation is seen as the most effective long term human evolutionary strategy.

Bands - tribes - of folks had to cooperate to hunt, gather food, fight off invaders, etc ....

And I am pretty sure Scientific American has had articles on this for quite a few years.

Conventional wisdom has suggested selfishness is most beneficial evolutionary strategy for humans,....

Maybe if you're reading 19th century papers ...

Re:I thought this was well known. (5, Insightful)

shutdown -p now (807394) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460119)

This is not new on evolution scale, either. Ethologists have been studying the evolution of altruism for decades now, with a lot of papers published along the same lines. There are even some mathematical models that can compute the most efficient group size for cooperation (animals/people then form groups of that size and cooperate, while competing between groups), which correspond well to real world.

Re:I thought this was well known. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460407)

Yep. I've also read that some primate species will help each other out even if there's no apparent benefit. They hook each other up, basically. They aren't just all chimps throwing poop at each other.

Re:I thought this was well known. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460175)

Conventional wisdom has suggested selfishness is most beneficial evolutionary strategy for humans,....

Maybe if you're reading 19th century papers ...

Or are a CEO, callously working employees to death so he has the time and money to bring cheap floozies with viable wombs to his yacht.

Or a stock broker whose bottom-line mentality destroys lives without any oversight or penalty, yet still has a loving spouse and 2.5 children.

Or that sleazeball at the bar who has had more mates with which he can pass on his genes than the lonely nice guy crying softly in the corner ever will.

Ah, modern life: One big "fuck you" to Charles Darwin from our entire species!

Re:I thought this was well known. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460309)

"Maybe if you're reading 19th century papers .."

If you've read anything about capitalist ideology, the whole ideology revolves around selfishness. America is a bastion of selfishness, war and violence. Hardly 'a thing of the past' as you like to think it is.

Re:I thought this was well known. (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460595)

Selfishness might still be the most beneficial strategy for humans, in the societies we've built that not only foster but massively reward selfishness.

Cooperation wins big time. (2)

ls671 (1122017) | 1 year,18 days | (#44459783)

Cooperation wins big time. Look at ants and bees. Only use selfishness with subject unwilling to cooperate and still, I have a hard time doing it sometimes...

Re:Cooperation wins big time. (5, Insightful)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | 1 year,18 days | (#44459813)

Cooperation wins big time.

Yep. Look at the effectiveness of, say, police forces and armies over individual armed men.

The radio is one of the deadliest, most precise weapons ever invented. Because it facilitates cooperation.

Re:Cooperation wins big time. (1)

hedwards (940851) | 1 year,18 days | (#44459965)

No, the radio is one of the most deadly innovations because it facilitates coordination. Coordinating 5 people can result in far more damage than hundreds cooperating, assuming the right tactics.

Re:Cooperation wins big time. (5, Funny)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460189)

No, the radio is one of the most deadly innovations because it facilitates coordination. Coordinating 5 people can result in far more damage than hundreds cooperating, assuming the right tactics.

You win the most pedantic comment of the year award!

No, I win the most didactic comment of the year award.

Re:Cooperation wins big time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460227)

No, the radio is one of the most deadly innovations because it facilitates coordination. Coordinating 5 people can result in far more damage than hundreds cooperating, assuming the right tactics.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coordination [wikipedia.org]

Coordination is the act of organizing, making different people or things work together for a goal or effect to fulfill desired goals in an organization

So whats the difference between coordination and cooperation again?

Re:Cooperation wins big time. (2)

zAPPzAPP (1207370) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460421)

Cooperation is the intent. Coordination is required to make it happen.

Re:Cooperation wins big time. (1)

DM9290 (797337) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460345)

No, the radio is one of the most deadly innovations because it facilitates coordination. Coordinating 5 people can result in far more damage than hundreds cooperating, assuming the right tactics.

the twinkie is the deadliest innovation. 1 selfish uncoordinated person with a twinkie can defeat an any finite number of co-ordinated selfish people armed with radios, even if they use the right tactics, assuming that twinkies always win every battle.

The Repubs won't care, though.... (-1, Troll)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | 1 year,18 days | (#44459801)

They champion selfishness AND reject evolution, so stay the course, I guess.

Re:The Repubs won't care, though.... (1, Funny)

hedwards (940851) | 1 year,18 days | (#44459977)

Fortunately, they also oppose sex, so they should die out before too long.

Re:The Repubs won't care, though.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460157)

No. We oppose sex with animals but we won't steal your right to it.

Re:The Repubs won't care, though.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460603)

Last time I checked Homo Sapiens Sapiens is an animal so are you guys having sex with mushrooms or something?

Captcha: anomaly

Re:The Repubs won't care, though.... (0)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460231)

Way to attribute negative characteristics to those EVIL PEOPLE who disagree with your political opinions. Do you know what "psychological projection" means?

You'll notice that THOSE EVIL PEOPLE don't oppose sex at all. They think that sex belongs in marriage, where it can - SURPRISE - result in children. Don't believe me? Just ask your friendly neighborhood Latina or Muslim lady with seven children, all of whom will grow up to vote. And they will outnumber your one precious snowflake child and beat the shit out of her on the playground.

Re:The Repubs won't care, though.... (1)

tbannist (230135) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460837)

Actually, he's doing a false generalization from one of the Republican President Candidate wannabes (Rick Santorum) to the rest of the republicans. Rick did, in fact, campaign on the idea that sex should be limited to only procreative purposes even inside marriage [salon.com] . To help enforce his puritanical ideas on everyone else, he wants to make all contraception illegal. In fact he supports allowing the government to rifle through the bedrooms of the people to make sure that they are only have sex for the reasons he believes are moral according to his interpretation of his religion*.

So a more accurate statement would be "Most of those EVIL PEOPLE who disagree with your political opinions do not oppose sex between married partners."

* There are, of course, rumours that Rick is a closeted homesexual who is actually incapable of taking pleasure in sex with his wife, which might explains his antipathy to having sex more often than strictly required to create children.

Re:The Repubs won't care, though.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44459979)

Gee, and as a republican, here I thought that my view was thinking that helping others should be done by ones own volition and not state mandated. I also didn't realize I rejected evolution, as it's a main stream belief and not the very vocal minority of whack jobs like I thought it was.

Thanks for telling me what I believe about myself.

Re:The Repubs won't care, though.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460111)

Don't you know the libs know better, in all situations. You don't get to decide for yourself, they already did for you.And if you disagree, you're wrong! They already decided! If they contradict, they don't really, cuz they know "thing" you can't. Guess the memo got lost...

Re:The Repubs won't care, though.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460263)

As a Republican, you shouldn't be helping people at all. Weak people will become dependent on you, while strong people will be denied the privilege of doing it themselves.

Re:The Repubs won't care, though.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460059)

What a small minded bigot we are.

Re:The Repubs won't care, though.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460295)

This is just an issue of you being reactionary. When have Republicans cared about anyone other than themselves? I mean, seriously, this isn't a troll - when have the Republicans taken care of *anyone* without it being part of a deal where they get what they "really" want?

Re:The Repubs won't care, though.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460657)

I'm sure there exist plenty of rational people who could calmly point out one or more examples of a Republican helping someone else out without any gain to themselves (or friends, or family, or donors, etc.) whatsoever.

Unfortunately, none of these people are on the Internet. So instead, you're going to get something along the lines of: "No! Republicans are better! You're a Libtard! FUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOUFUCKYOU!!!!"

Volunteer or else! (5, Insightful)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | 1 year,18 days | (#44459805)

Voluntary cooperation.

Economists, in their cavalier way, often ignore or minimize this trumpeting their politics.

trustafarians vs the indpendent people (1)

alen (225700) | 1 year,18 days | (#44459823)

here in NYC i see this all the time. a lot of the newer immigrants the adult kids live with parents. kids with trust funds have lots of money to pay the rent in nice apartments and have lots of cash to spare.
meanwhile all the independent minded people spend all their money on rent and living expenses and have nothing for the future
then later in life the leeches get help from the old people to buy property and get further ahead in life than the perpetual renters
the native americans did this too. they had huge homes where large extended family units lived and the older people helped with the kids while the younger people worked.

and in my case i'm not 40 and have almost 50% equity in my home due to living with parents a long time ago and saving some money for a down payment

Re:trustafarians vs the indpendent people (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | 1 year,18 days | (#44459999)

and in my case i'm not 40 and have almost 50% equity in my home due to living with parents a long time ago and saving some money for a down payment

Hmm, seems to me I paid my house off when I was about 40. May have been a few years later - 40 was a long time ago for me....

Re:trustafarians vs the indpendent people (1)

alen (225700) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460035)

did you live close to the one of the top schools in your area?

home values are proportional to the quality of the zoned school

Re:trustafarians vs the indpendent people (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460127)

Assuming we're talking elementary/high schools, then we picked the place for access to a good elementary school specifically, and secondarily for a good high school.

If, on the other hand, you're talking University, then nope, didn't even consider the issue.

Re:trustafarians vs the indpendent people (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460361)

May have been a few years later - 40 was a long time ago for me....

... which was likely a very, very different economy than it is today, depending on how long "a long time ago" really was.

That's what burns my ass when older people (not necessarily you) brag about how they went to college and paid it off with a minimum wage job back in the 1960's, when you could pay for a year's tuition with 3 week's pay; meanwhile accusing today's generation of being bad with money for not being able to do the same, even though these days it would be damn near impossible to pay for a semester's worth of education on 6 months pay at minimum wage.

Again, not saying that's what you've done here, but your post gave me the opportunity to bitch.

Similar work (2)

Pazuzu's petals (2889219) | 1 year,18 days | (#44459833)

An important thesis, though not a totally new one: Robert Wright's "Nonzero" and Matt Riddley's "Origins of Virtue" make related cases. Fantastic books for those interested in the origins and nature of co-operation.

Gamechangers (1)

gmuslera (3436) | 1 year,18 days | (#44459875)

Hoarding of goods used to mean cooperation. But add to that interchange of hoarded goods and make it virtual so it can be infinitely accumulated and give it its own meaning instead of "goods, just a lot of them", and selfishness becomes an emergent behaviour, specially if that meaning is shared by the other members of your species. We as civilizaiton acquired a few very destructive memes and will be hard to get rid of them.

Evolution doesn't favor anything (1)

bigAhi (1718886) | 1 year,18 days | (#44459903)

A species with cooperative tendencies may evolve where it benefits survival but evolution doesn't care. Not sure it applies to people though. Humans are intelligent enough to game the system and cooperate when it benefits them or be selfish when they can get away with it.

Cooperate or else (0)

mc6809e (214243) | 1 year,18 days | (#44459909)

I can see this being used to justify all sorts of abuses.

"The science says you must cooperate!"

But what is the object in all this, really?

Is equilibrating at mediocrity really the goal?

Breaking: Podunk U. Professor Bored, Writes Paper (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44459921)

Breaking news: An undistinguished professor of some flash-in-the-pan hyphenated science was bored and spent 2 weeks fiddling around with SPSS, SigmaPlot, and a thesaurus to prove a tautology. His efforts were rewarded when the editors Yet Another Nature Specialist Journal chose to publish his results after they ran out of grist during the summer doldrums.

Observers don't know exactly what impact this paper will have on humanity's body of knowledge, but expect it to be 'piss-all'.

study is utter junk (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44459953)

the study is utter shit, what makes this certain study applicable to evolutionary principles? None!

Mutual Aid (4, Insightful)

astro (20275) | 1 year,18 days | (#44459975)

Petr Kropotkin wrote a series of essays in the late 1800s that became the book "Mutual Aid". It lays out in beautiful and exquisite detail the premise here, that co-operation is a primary factor in evolution, rather than simple dominance, as he felt Darwin suggested. It is truly a masterpiece work and I highly recommend that anyone interested in the subject read it.

Kropotkin went on to become (very much posthumously) one of the most-read and best regarded philosophers of the Anarchist political movement; his politics were largely molded by his observations that are laid out in Mutual Aid.

Re:Mutual Aid (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460135)

Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution [gutenberg.org]
Time to dust of that black flag!

A Beautiful Mind -- Similar Concept -- John :Nash (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460039)

Isn't this similar to the concept in "A Beautiful Mind". Nash equilibrium -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nash_equilibrium

Really ... this isn't ~all~ that surprising -- is it???

Re:A Beautiful Mind -- Similar Concept -- John :Na (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460529)

I thought Nash's theory had to do with the optimal way of picking up women at campus bars.

Extrapolating (1)

American AC in Paris (230456) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460067)

One wonders if this doesn't help to explain both the perennial popularity of libertarianism and the ongoing lack of a viable libertarian state.

Prisoner's dilemma? (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460077)

So, essentially, they changed the rules for the Prisoner's Dilemma, and the results turned out differently.

And then they use this to draw broad conclusions about society?

Color me speechless...

shallow end of the gene pool (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460095)

Genetic evolution requires exchange of genes, or a comparably high rate of random mutation. Unless you're asexual or live in a nuclear reactor, your species only evolves by doing it like rabbits. If you destroy your competitors, your species ends up with a smaller gene pool, so your species evolves more slowly. Anyone that has ever half-way thought about how evolution works understands this concept.

p.s. Based on these premises, I've fallaciously deduced that it's selfish to procreate with your relatives! (I'm looking at you, Alabama!)

Cooperative Selfishness (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460113)

Does the paper give consideration it is not always the loser that qualifies as selfish? Take army ants for example. Nor is cooperation always voluntary or extremely evolutionarily programmed in. I probably should have RTFA, but am too busy lauging at the premise that cooperation is non-selfish mob while the less socially successful/needy is selfish. Territorialism in some species is a form of cooperative survival. Infinite diversity etc..

How about "Journal of Slashdot" (3, Interesting)

T.E.D. (34228) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460115)

If only the authors had been Slashdot readers, they could have written this same paper 10 years ago [slashdot.org] .

Re:How about "Journal of Slashdot" (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460861)

Do all of your comments automatically qualify as TED Talks?

Stupid Paper By Educated Idiots. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460133)

As a non-educated Idiot. Evolution doesn't favor one trait over the other. Instead environmental conditions favor one trait over another. So obviously in an environment with enough resources that are difficult for individuals to harness. Evolutionary pressure will favor working together. On the other hand in an environment with sparse resource that are easy for the individual to harness put difficult for groups to effectively use. It will turn the other way.

Prior art! (1)

paavo512 (2866903) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460141)

Come on, this is no news! This has been common knowledge for decades and it is in Wikipedia as well (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Evolution_of_Cooperation).
--
A good summary is an excellent excuse to avoid reading the article. The same with a bad one.

Cooperation is selfishness (5, Insightful)

Todd Knarr (15451) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460147)

I can do more with your help than I can on my own. But to get your help, I'm going to have to cooperate with you and offer you my help in return. So it's not really a choice between selfishness and cooperation. It's a choice between selfishness and stupidity. Do I be stupid, reject your help and limit myself to only what I can accomplish without help? Or do I be selfish, cooperate with you and reap the gains of having your help?

It's the same thing as you see with a mortgage. If you're greedy you forgo the immediate benefits and make a large down-payment because long-term you'll gain a lot more in reduced interest payments. If you're stupid or desperate you'll make the minimum down-payment and keep the money in your pocket right now, but pay several times what you "saved" in increased interest payments.

Re:Cooperation is selfishness (1)

slew (2918) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460573)

As with many simplistic analysis, people often ignore risk and time-value analysis.

If getting a person's help in the future requires you to offer your own help today to that other person, you must normalize the cost you have to pay today to that person with the value of that help you might received in the future tempered with uncertainty (since you risk not getting that help in the future).

This is similar to a mortgage. The downpayment you make today is an opportunity cost that you pay today with the value of the reduced interest payments you make in the future which needs to be tempered with uncertainty (since you risk selling your house before the full amortization time of the mortgage and not realizing all that interest savings). You might be able to instead use that downpayment to say not sell your old house and rent it out, where if you waited until you accumulated enough money to buy a rental property, it might be too late to purchase one at a reasonable price (a time value concern).

That's not to say many people make this calculation correctly or apply the proper risk analysis or time-value analysis, but as with any pure strategy, always cooperating is nearly as "stupid" as always being selfish when tempered with risk. A simplistic illustration of this is how "tit-for-tat" [wikipedia.org] was shown to be a good strategy for an iterated prisoner's dilemma which has no time-value component (each cooperation is valued the same as a future cooperation).

Re:Cooperation is selfishness (1)

asylumx (881307) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460679)

If you're stupid or desperate you'll make the minimum down-payment and keep the money in your pocket right now, but pay several times what you "saved" in increased interest payments.

A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.

On not being selfish.. (3, Funny)

djupedal (584558) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460151)

Eskimo says - I loan out my knife....it comes back dull. I loan out my dog...he comes back tired and hungry. I loan out my canoe, it comes back broken. I loan out my wife...she comes back happy.

Paging Mr. Dawkins (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460217)

Curiously, I believe this was all pretty well covered back in "The Selfish Gene" in 1976.

All human behaviour is inhearintly selfish. (1)

eheldreth (751767) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460237)

It seems they have forgotten that evolution doesn't favor anything instead specific traits are favored in environments in which they are useful. In human behavior selfishness is partially a byproduct of the survival instinct. In times of plenty it's easy for most of us to push aside our survival instincts and work together to form larger more cooperative communities. It is to our benefit that such communities prosper so that we may live in greater security within the buffer they provide. The more scarce resources become the more pressing our survival instincts are and the more large communities begin to crumble. When you get to the family unit the biological drive to procreate and insure the offspring's survival will moderate the survival instincts allowing parents and other close relatives to sacrifice there own survival. No one, know matter how selfless is going to watch their loved ones starve so everyone can have an equal share of the communities resources. Which brings me back to my primary point. All human behavior is at is base inherently, though not always consciously selfish.

open source (1)

mrflash818 (226638) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460249)

So, this will give me hope the bazaar (ie open source hardware|software|operating systems) will triumph, in the long run : )

Couldn't it be "both"? (5, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460261)

XOR logic fails in understanding complex systems. It could be that Selfishness is beneficial until it isn't And I'm sure that Cooperation is beneficial until it isn't. Pure "communism" has failed every place it has been attempted, even when completely voluntary. The reason is because there is no incentive in pure cooperation.

The same lack of understanding is also available in pure selfishness. It is doomed because there are times when cooperation is required to achieve more complex goals.

I would postulate that a mix of knowing when each is optimal would be even better, which would require more than a simple XOR operation.

Re:Couldn't it be "both"? (2)

someone1234 (830754) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460531)

Pure communism ever happened? Wasn't it always a selfish leader or group that exploited the rest of the people?

Re:Couldn't it be "both"? (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460585)

I don't know about that. Siafu are pretty communistic, and I've yet to see them fail. Smart people get out of their way. Heck, some Siafu willingly sacrifice their limbs for their "collective". Poor sausage fly. He knew what they had planned for him, but he went to them anyways.

Re:Couldn't it be "both"? (5, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460665)

Yeah, I have an aversion to anything that states, as an absolute, that evolution "favors" anything. Evolution is not a conscious force that picks sides, deciding what is good and what is bad. The only thing that evolution favors is 'that which survives', and it's heavily contextual. A trait that enables survival in one circumstance might hinder survival in another circumstance.

Evolution doesn't judge. 'That which survives' is not inherently or morally superior to 'that which does not survive'. The 'that which survives' is not inherently better at surviving than 'that which does not survive'. It was just better at surviving in specific circumstance that it was in. Or sometimes, it might even be that it just got lucky-- it just happened to survive. Luck of the draw.

Re:Couldn't it be "both"? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460785)

Pure Communism fails because Communism requires a totalitarian state which centralizes authority. "Communism" is not a catch-all phrase for an idealistic society.

There are plenty of examples of groups (small and big) with decentralized power structures and ubiquitous sharing. They're so numerous and diverse that it's not even worth pointing out.

Also, you have to understand that political structures are only a superficial veneer over the day-to-day relations among people. If you've ever traveled and encountered something called "hospitality", then you've encountered altruism. People are more-or-less hospitable whether they live in a totalitarian state or a hippie kingdom. Of course, nobody likes being taken advantage of, but our first instincts are usually to cooperate and help others when time and resources allow. And that is, indeed, altruism. Altruism doesn't require martyrdom.

Re:Couldn't it be "both"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460795)

How on earth did you get the idea that communism == cooperation? Cooperation means "let's work together toward a common goal." Communism means "you don't own stuff."

Classic bad science reporting (3, Insightful)

rasmusbr (2186518) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460415)

Here's nearly every newspaper article about science ever: "Until recently, scientists believed in $obviously_false_idea, but a recent study shows that..."

The idea that cooperation has been selected for by evolution to some extent is obviously correct, because otherwise we wouldn't have social species that can't survive without cooperation. It's also nothing new, it's one of the central themes of The Selfish Gene that everyone who feigns an interest in science pretends to have read.

I haven't read TFA, but I imagine the study was probably about some detail of how cooperation is selected for.

How is this news? (1)

harvestsun (2948641) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460599)

This is true for any social animal (which humans most clearly are). Consider two sub-species of ants, one with members who work together, and one with members who hoard food to themselves. Which one will survive and increase its population the most in the long run? Take a guess. It's the simplest explanation for why humans have altruistic tendencies (despite the long-accepted explanation of "because God!").

There seems to be a large public misconception that evolution is a process which works on individuals, when really it works on ENTIRE ECOSYSTEMS. This isn't Pokemon.

Cooperation vs.Selfishness, Introvert perspective (1)

mrhippo3 (2747859) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460609)

Another "proof" is in the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts. In a sales situation, because introverts are NOT pushy (selfish) they will often lose that first sale. However, over time -- especially with a consultative sales model, introverts will outperform extroverts. Sales is a cooperative venture where you try to determine if your product will meet the customer's need. Introverts will listen -- a basis of cooperation, and then respond appropriately, because they heard what you had to say. Too introverts are more attuned to non-verbal cues (even over the phone). They will hear the pauses and hesitation and respond.
As such, introverts naturally follow a cooperative path. They prosper by helping others. Sounds like a winning strategy to me.

Selfish Gene (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,18 days | (#44460693)

The benefits of cooperation and how cooperation is also a selfish act is well covered in Dawkin's book The Selfish Gene. That book is, what, thirty years old now, more? At the time it was fairly well established that cooperative behaviour would typically benefit the species and further "selfish" genes. Nothing about this story is new, it was old twenty years ago.

Complexity require cooperation (2)

Baron von Daren (1253850) | 1 year,18 days | (#44460773)

Though certainly a lot of both, evolution is more the story of cooperation than competition. Complexity requires a cooperation of sorts from quantum particles to DNA and beyond . Molecules ‘work together’ to make DNA, cells themselves are made of more primitive biological structures that banded together, organs are made of cells working together, and so on to organisms, species, ecosystems and, in a roundabout way, even the solar system itself.

Sure, we aren’t talking about cognitive choices, but there is a distinct pattern of epiphenomenal sums arising from cooperative parts. Self-similarity is a theme in evolution (i.e. the pattern of cooperation is self-similar across various scales of scope), and cooperative patterns are easy to spot in human history and culture. These patterns are key and forge a trajectory of slow progress despite (and also due to in no small part) self-interest.

Now some like to argue that cooperation is just enlightened self-interest, and that might be true from the perspective of the individual. On larger scales, though, enlightened self-interest is simply a mechanism that pragmatically engenders cooperation.

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