Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Cooperation Instinct

"In a dog-eat-dog world, people still 
cooperate, collaborate, and help each other out. Our species’ urge to work together has remained 
an evolutionary paradox, seemingly at odds with Darwinian theory—until now.....

NOTE: "At the multicellular level of cooperation that defines an organism, there is genetic mechanisms in place that allow cells and organs to cooperate. Between individual organisms there exist various levels of internal biological mechanisms and external social mechanisms that foster cooperation that builds social connections and societies."

"There are five crucial mechanisms that drive supercooperation in highly social species like ours:

"The first mechanism is Tit for Tat, or direct reciprocity—“I will if you will”—which represented the first outbreak of cooperation in the prisoner’s dilemma simulation."

"Next comes the much more advanced mechanism of indirect reciprocity, or reputation, when one individual is willing to help another not because of personal experience but because others have described having good prior encounters with that person."

"Nowak identifies the third mechanism as “spatial selection”—interaction born of living in proximity. Within a small area, social networks aid survival and cooperation flowers."

"The fourth is multilevel selection, involving larger groups like towns, tribes, or companies. These structures encourage cooperation among their members."

"The fifth mechanism is a version of the familiar kin selection, the tendency to cooperate with blood relations. Nowak believes blood ties might play a role—but one defined more by social cooperation than by the propagation of family genes."

Altruism emerged because it gave some individuals an edge in the struggle to survive. The survivors passed the beneficial, altruistic genes to their descendants and so on and so forth until, over time, groups of survivors banded together to form a defensible nest. The motive of any one creature may have been selfish, but extreme cooperation was the happy result. When individuals were forced into the same space (because of the proximity of a food source, for instance), working together in large numbers of cooperative individuals gave everyone a better shot at survival. Kinship and inclusive fitness are much less important than previously thought.